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.