A bisexual man from Jamaica who was denied asylum because the United Kingdom’s Home Office believes he is lying about his sexuality has been granted a reprieve, but his future remains uncertain.
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. Though Edwards’ flight back to Jamaica was canceled in the eleventh hour, because he still does not have refugee status he could be detained or deported at any time.
The media attention around Edwards has also proved to be a double-edged sword. Though public awareness of his case has led to support, including petitions demanding change and fundraisers for his legal fees, should the efforts to keep him in the UK fail, they also increase the likelihood that he would be subjected to discrimination and violence related to his orientation if returned to Jamaica.
Edwards’ case also highlights some of the most severe concerns about the issues that gay and bisexual asylum seekers face. Although the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared that they cannot be ordered to simply be “discreet” in their countries of origin, judges in the system have effectively been asking asylum seekers to prove they qualify as “gay enough” to deserve sanctuary. In a culture where people are assumed to be either gay or straight, it’s a requirement that bisexual refugees are especially unlikely to be able to satisfy.
In January 2014, a post on the Free Movement blog exposed a number of questions transcribed from an “interview” with a bisexual asylum seeker in detention, during which “no lawyer was present at any point.” They included:
What did you do with x?
Did you do anything other than kissing x?
Where did this happen?
How often did you have intercourse together?
Is that every day?
Did you put your penis into x’s backside?
When x was penetrating you did you have an erection?
Did you ejaculate?
Did x ejaculate inside you?
Why did you use a condom?
How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?
How does that display you are bisexual?
Why have you got to behave as a bisexual in [country]?
That was with x only and he initiated the contact you claim. Why can’t you return and live a full life there?
Edwards is far from the only gay or bisexual refugee to be accused of lying about his sexuality. In May 2014, Aidah Asaba was denied her application for asylum because due to her previous marriage to a man, the courts did not believe she was a lesbian. She was told she would be deported on May 24, but the 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.
PinkNews reported that a Home Office spokesperson told them, “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we consider every application on its individual merits. Mr. Edwards was found not to need the protection of the UK and this decision has been upheld in the courts by an independent immigration judge who did not find Mr. Edwards’ claims to be credible.”
The spokesperson refused to explain or comment on why Edwards’ deportation was suddenly canceled, or if another deportation flight was scheduled.
The Northern Film School produced a short documentary on Edwards for Leeds No Borders, titled “State of Limbo.” Watch it below: