Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre where Anne is being held. Bryn Lennon/Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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
Show Hide image

UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.