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AT LEAST NINE people, mostly gays, have applied for refugee status in Canada, claiming harassment and abuse in Barbados; and the matter is being investigated by the Barbados Consulate in Toronto, as well as the Canadian government’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The applicants, including one young woman, have sought hearings with the IRB, and at least one has been refused while another has appealed his case, reliable sources confirmed yesterday. Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean and Barbados’ Consul General in Toronto Leroy McClean both said they were aware of the present situation. The consul general further disclosed that most of the information had come from local music business entrepreneur Dwayne Grazette and was under investigation. “Mr Grazette has written to everybody, including the Canadian High Commission and Canada’s Border Services Agency, [and] we [the consulate] have done all we are mandated to do. “We do not know for sure if there is a scam but have taken steps to find out. We have to verify it,” Consul General McClean said. Calling it “a serious matter”, he admitted to hearing previous reports of “people who try to short-circuit the immigration system and claim refugee status”, but noted that Barbados was not currently on Canada’s official refugee list and therefore most cases of this nature did not succeed. When contacted, Grazette and at least two known homosexual youths said they had first-hand knowledge of several young gay men currently trying to get into Canada as refugees. So too did head of the United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS Barbados (UGLAAB), Darcy Dear. “I have a gay friend, a Canadian professor, who visited Barbados recently and mentioned it to me,” Dear told the SUNDAY SUN. “The organization [UGLAAB] intends to look at it in the very near future . . . because this could affect Barbados’ standing in the international community, as well as its relationship with Canada, and can affect us as the only organization that represents gays and lesbians in Barbados.” Dear, who has previously complained about police not responding seriously to crimes against gays, said that “although things may happen to gays here, including me, I will not be party to anything that seeks to destroy Barbados”. But Grazette was even more critical of what he termed “a scam”, while claiming that one “refugee” had fraudulently used his name in connection with a past business arrangement. “So I sent correspondence to clear my name and to protect Barbados’ reputation. If I go there with artistes on a show, I could be stopped because of this scam,” said Grazette, who has worked with a number of local artistes and bands, including Jabae. To be granted asylum in Canada as a refugee, a homosexual must have a well founded fear of persecution. Negus Crookendale, one of the gay youths who allowed the SUNDAY SUN to use his name, said he applied for refugee status after hearing of the scheme from a Jamaican resident in Canada. “I had a hearing and I saw the process; the benefits the Canadian government gives you every month for rent, school, food, a special diet if you have a medical condition, as well as start-up cash of CAN$900 for six months before you are actually called for a hearing. I said negative things about Barbados, to make it look as if I was in danger. I told lies, but, I wasn’t accepted,” he said. He also noted that one of the refugee claimants had escaped from a local correctional institution.