A bisexual man from Jamaica has been denied asylum because the United Kingdom’s Home Office believes he is lying about his sexuality.
The Home Office declared that Orashia Edwards, who is thirty-two, has been “dishonest” with them about his orientation. They gave no explanation regarding how they came to their conclusion.
Edwards, who has lived in Leeds, England for the last fourteen years, is scheduled to be deported back to Jamaica on July 2. The BBC reported that he told press after he lost his appeal that he would “prefer to be a dead man than get on a flight to die. I have nowhere to go.”
He added, “This is my home, I feel safe here, my family and friends are here. I can’t go back to Jamaica.”
In Jamaica, sex between two men is a criminal act, punishable by up to ten years in a hard labor prison. The social atmosphere is also very hostile towards the LGBT community, with high levels of violence motivated by homophobia and transphobia.
Edwards was denied permission to remain in the UK any longer in December 2013, but the LGBT immigration rights group Leeds for Change was able to get his original January 2014 deportation cancelled. The group said in a press release that they were “appalled” by the decision, “which leaves our friend Orashia Edwards at risk of deportation to Jamaica where his life will be in grave danger.”
The press release goes on to point out that 98 to 99 percent of people seeking asylum due to fears of homophobia-related violence see their claims rejected . Yet when people apply for asylum for other reasons, the refusal rate is a considerably lower 76 percent, which “shows systematic discrimination…and points to the need for a total overhaul of Home Office procedure in deciding these claims.”
The fact that Edwards is bisexual rather than gay may also have worked against him, given that according to some activists, the Home Office is especially reluctant to grant asylum to people who could potentially “pass” as straight in their countries of origin.
The government denies the claims of homophobic discrimination. 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.”
In July 2013, the Home Office came under fire for a government campaign that warned undocumented immigrants to “go home or face arrest” on advertisements plastered on vans and driven through six boroughs in London. According to news site London 24, the campaign “drew 224 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).” Though the ASA later concluded that the posters were “unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or distress,” it also ruled “that the ad must not appear again in its current form.”