Death of Uganda woman sparks debate on UK policy for LGBT asylum seekers

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British activists have called for an “immediate amnesty” for LGBT asylum seekers following the death of a Ugandan woman forced to return to her homeland. The extreme lengths endured by asylum claimants, including filming sex tapes, to prove their sexuality has recently sparked controversy in the country.

Jackie Nanyonjo was deported by the UK Border Agency on January 12 despite her claims that being lesbian she faced anti-gay persecution in Uganda. Nanyonjo died March 15 in Uganda due to previous health issues.

The Green Party’s LGBT campaign group reacted angrily to news of her death and demanded an urgent overhall of how at-risk immigrants are treated by the UK border authorities.

Green Party Spokesperson Siobhan MacMahon said in a statement: “We demand an immediate amnesty for all LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and appeal to the Home Office to ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBTIQ people fleeing persecution from violently homophobic and transphobic countries.”

“We also demand urgent review of how failed asylum seekers are returned to their home country, especially the use of dangerous forms of restraint, and a moratorium on all such deportations until these processes are changed,” she added.

Those seeking refugee status in the United Kingdom are having to go as far as providing a sex tape in court to stay in the country. Until 2010, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) could turn away asylum seekers on the basis that they could behave with discretion in their homeland. Since then, the risk of anti-gay persecution in the applicant’s country has been reason enough for them to become refugees in the UK.

UK lawyer S Chelvan is a leading expert in asylum claims based on sexual or gender identity. He told 429Magazine that the UKBA was “not applying their own internal guidance [on self-identification]” and that there was a belief among asylum seekers that “only by filming sexual conduct with a member of the same sex can they prove that they’re gay.”

Chelvan created the DSSH (Difference, Stigma, Shame and Harm) model in 2011 as a tool to assist refugee status determination. These four issues are seen as being the core triggers in the majority of LGBT asylum claims. He dismissed the idea that a self-identification system could lead to some asylum applicants illegitimately gaining entry to the UK, saying there were “no statistics to support these anecdotal false claims.”

Chelvan gave the example of someone from a country like Iran who might be too afraid to consider sexual activity based on the prevailing culture there. In this case, the individual identifies as gay but can still be deported because of the UKBA’s “fixation in relation to sexual conduct.”

On Nanyonjo, Chelvan said that her case needed to be investigated.

“The court did not accept she was a lesbian. However, there needs to be an investigation regarding the circumstances of her removal,” he added.

429Magazine

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