PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Canada has allowed a gay and atheist Malaysian student to stay in the country as a refugee.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada made the decision to allow Mr Hazim Ismail to stay following a 20-minute hearing on Tuesday (April 5).
Canada's Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news reported that Mr Hazim, a University of Winnipeg student, feared for his life if he was sent back to Malaysia.
"It (the board's decision) was overwhelming and I feel really, really, loved and appreciated," Mr Hazim was quoted in an interview with CBC.
Mr Hazim said he once thought of returning to Malaysia and "live undercover" but he changed his mind since his case had attracted the attention of the local media.
He alleged that he was threatened by some members of the public, and attacked with homophobic comments.
"I'm trying to fight for survival because Malaysia's not welcoming of homosexuals," he added.
Mr Hazim's lawyer Bashir Khan said the board's decision meant that he could not be deported back to Malaysia.
"Hazim walked in as a refugee claimant and he is walking out as a protected person," he said.
Mr Hazim will receive a written version of the decision in the next three to six weeks and can apply for permanent resident status in Canada - a process that Mr Khan said could take 10 to 13 months.
It was reported that Mr Hazim's family had disowned him and stopped paying for his education last year "after learning he is gay and an atheist".
His story became public after an online campaign, GoFundMe, was launched in December to help pay his tuition for the rest of his semester.