The United Kingdom’s Home Office has halted the planned deportation of a lesbian asylum seeker from Uganda.
Aidah Asaba, a 26-year-old lesbian from Uganda, fled to the UK seeking asylum due to allegedly being the target of death threats, as well as being subjected to abuse from her community and her family. She also said her family was forcing her into an arranged marriage.
Asaba was told she would be deported on Saturday, May 24, but only one day before she was scheduled for the forced departure, the Home Office decided to grant a reprieve pending a review of her case, and freed her from her detention.
A member of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, Edwin Sesange, told Pink News, “Aidah Asaba’s flight has been cancelled and they are going to release her as they are reviewing their decision. We are delighted for the support that the public has given towards saving Aidah Asaba from being sent back to Uganda.
“We also thank the UK Government for agreeing to review their initial decision in light of the new evidence. We argue them to grant her a refugee status.”
Human rights activist groups have documented multiple cases of the Home Office allegedly deporting LGBT asylum seekers back to their home countries, despite the high rates of violence facing them should they be forced to return. According to the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, as many as 99 percent of LGBT asylum seekers saw their claims rejected in 2010, while only 73 percent of other claims were not approved.
The government denies the claims. Immigration Minister Chris Bryant, who belongs to the generally liberal Labour Party, told Pink News, “My experience thus far is that I have not known a decision [to]go in the wrong direction in the end…
“In all asylum cases we are trying to do two things: protect the vulnerable and protect the British taxpayer. Because there was certainly in the late 1990s a significant number of people who were using the asylum system as an alternative way of being an economic migrant—and that’s not what asylum is there for.”
However, in March 2013, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a review of how orientation-based asylum claims are processed, due to a leaked report of LGBT asylum seekers being subjected to inappropriate questions about their sexual activity. According to the BBC, “The battleground is now firmly centred in ‘proving’ that they are gay. In turn, this has led to claimants going to extreme lengths to try and meet the new demands of credibility assessment in this area, including the submission of photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, presenting officers and the judiciary.”
Homosexuality had already been illegal in Uganda since its days as an English colony, but in February 2014, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that allowed first time “offenders”—regardless of gender—to be given a fourteen-year prison sentence, and repeat offenders declared guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” could receive a lifetime prison sentence.