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

 

 

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Boris Johnson is right about Saudi Arabia - but will he stick to his tune in Riyadh?

The Foreign Secretary went off script, but on truth. 

The difference a day makes. On Wednesday Theresa May was happily rubbing shoulders with Saudi Royalty at the Gulf Co-operation Council summit and talking about how important she thinks the relationship is.

Then on Thursday, the Guardian rained on her parade by publishing a transcript of her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, describing the regime as a "puppeteer" for "proxy wars" while speaking at an international conference last week.

We will likely never know how she reacted when she first heard the news, but she’s unlikely to have been happy. It was definitely off-script for a UK foreign secretary. Until Johnson’s accidental outburst, the UK-Saudi relationship had been one characterised by mutual backslapping, glamorous photo-ops, major arms contracts and an unlimited well of political support.

Needless to say, the Prime Minister put him in his place as soon as possible. Within a few hours it was made clear that his words “are not the government’s views on Saudi and its role in the region". In an unequivocal statement, Downing Street stressed that Saudi is “a vital partner for the UK” and reaffirmed its support for the Saudi-led air strikes taking place in Yemen.

For over 18 months now, UK fighter jets and UK bombs have been central to the Saudi-led destruction of the poorest country in the region. Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite the mounting death toll, the arms exports have continued unabated. Whitehall has licensed over £3.3bn worth of weapons since the intervention began last March. As I write this, the UK government is actively working with BAE Systems to secure the sale of a new generation of the same fighter jets that are being used in the bombing.

There’s nothing new about UK leaders getting close to Saudi Arabia. For decades now, governments of all political colours have worked hand-in-glove with the arms companies and Saudi authorities. Our leaders have continued to bend over backwards to support them, while turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights abuses being carried out every single day.

Over recent years we have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop an investigation into arms exports to Saudi and David Cameron flying out to Riyadh to meet with royalty. Last year saw the shocking but ultimately unsurprising revelation that UK civil servants had lobbied for Saudi Arabia to sit on the UN Human Rights Council, a move which would seem comically ironic if the consequences weren’t so serious.

The impact of the relationship hasn’t just been to boost and legitimise the Saudi dictatorship - it has also debased UK policy in the region. The end result is a hypocritical situation in which the government is rightly calling on Russian forces to stop bombing civilian areas in Aleppo, while at the same time arming and supporting Saudi Arabia while it unleashes devastation on Yemen.

It would be nice to think that Johnson’s unwitting intervention could be the start of a new stage in UK-Saudi relations; one in which the UK stops supporting dictatorships and calls them out on their appalling human rights records. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely. Last Sunday, mere days after his now notorious speech, Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr show and, as usual, stressed his support for his Saudi allies.

The question for Johnson is which of these seemingly diametrically opposed views does he really hold? Does he believe Saudi Arabia is a puppeteer that fights proxy wars and distorts Islam, or does he see it as one of the UK’s closest allies?

By coincidence Johnson is due to visit Riyadh this weekend. Will he be the first Foreign Secretary in decades to hold the Saudi regime accountable for its abuses, or will he cozy up to his hosts and say it was all one big misunderstanding?

If he is serious about peace and about the UK holding a positive influence on the world stage then he must stand by his words and use his power to stop the arms sales and hold the UK’s "puppeteer" ally to the same standard as other aggressors. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, then we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Andrew Smith is a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). You can follow CAAT at @CAATuk.