Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre where Anne is being held. Bryn Lennon/Getty Images.
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The #SaveAnne campaign: trying to stop a lesbian asylum seeker being deported to Uganda

Anne Nassozi, who is currently detained in the Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre, will be deported to Uganda this evening despite the country's anti-gay legislation.

This evening 45-year-old Anne Nassozi will be deported to Uganda on a Kenya Airways flight. Anne - a lesbian - is currently locked up in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre following a failed bid for asylum. She has been detained since her arrival in the UK last December. 

In 2013, despite tensions in her native Uganda, Anne used her property to provide a safe haven for gay women. After a brief period of safety, her property was razed to the ground by a mob and some of her tenants were beaten and killed. In order to flee to the UK, Anne had to sell the deeds to her land. If she is deported, her life in Uganda will mean either time behind bars or violence on the streets.

The Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill - previously dubbed the "Kill the Gays bill" by the media before its death penalty clause was dropped - was signed into law by the president, Yoweri Museveni, in February this year. If convicted, a homosexual in Uganda can face a lifetime in prison. The "promotion" of homosexuality alone can lead to seven years in jail or a £24,000 fine. The political and cultural stigma attached to LGBT people in Uganda was made clear last week at a stadium in Kampala, where 30,000 people gathered to praise Museveni for passing the bill.

At the time of writing, Anne’s petition had over 7,000 signatures. One comment on the website read: "I am a lesbian teenager and I feel that we need to make an effort to do more to help people from other countries now that my rights have been recognised. Also it's just decent human rights. I cannot believe we are still having to campaign for things like this."

Anne’s experience highlights the need for a revision in the LGBT asylum process. The UK has a better record than other countries in terms of LGBT asylum seekers, but cases like Anne’s make evident how the government, in reality, has fallen short of its own rhetoric. In Anne’s first asylum interview when she entered the UK, she was afraid to tell officials she was a lesbian. Both of the interpreters in her interview were Ugandan and both were from here tribe. She was concerned that they would share the information with people back in her village.

Anne, and others like her, who by right should be offered asylum in the UK, is being turned away in order to meet a short term and politically motivated arbitrary target on immigration. Theresa May should revoke Anne’s removal directions and offer her shelter in this country, rather than a lifetime behind bars in a country where her sexuality is illegal. Kenya Airways has no legal obligation to deport Anne. Plane operators have previously refused to take deportees: earlier this month, British Airways refused to fly teenager Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritus, following a request from the Home Office. 

On the last recorded phone interview with Anne, she said: "I can’t go back to Uganda because I have nowhere to go... they hate people who are lesbians, they hate gay people."

You can sign the petition here and help prevent the deporation of Anne to Uganda. 

Ashley Cowburn writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2014. He tweets @ashcowburn

 

 

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.