Uganda lesbian asylum seeker claims to have been abused in detention in the UK
A lesbian and another woman are to be deported from the UK to Uganda this week where both fear they will be persecuted.
The two have been held at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Retention Centre in Bedfordshire, southern England and are part of the ‘Yarl’s Wood Five’ – now a group of 25 women, many of whom are lesbian.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) and GayAsylumUK have both confirmed that the women will be deported and they have been issued with their plane tickets.
Freda Nsumba is a Ugandan lesbian who says she faces persecution, arrest and abuse in Uganda if she goes back.
GayAsylumUK was told by Nsumba: ‘I feel like [I] am being treated like a criminal; I feel like my sexual orientation is being assessed like a condition or sickness like it is a matter of debate.
‘I have been detained for almost three months now and in my second week of detention, I was bullied and threatened by my former roommate whom I reported to the staff but nothing major was done. Furthermore me and several other lesbians have had various homophobic attacks whilst in detention.
‘I am not happy and I feel that I am facing the same problems that I have been running away from all my life, I have never been accepted.’
LGBT people in Uganda have virtually no protections at all and both male and female homosexual activity is illegal.
Prior to 2000, only male homosexuality was criminalized, but under the Penal Code Amendment (Gender References) Act 2000 all references to ‘any male’ were changed to ‘any person’ so that lesbianism was criminalized as well.
A poll conducted in 2010, in the wake of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill, revealed that 11% of Ugandans viewed homosexuality as being morally acceptable.
In June GSN reported that Uganda’s Catholic bishops were calling for the revival of the notorious ‘kill the gays’ bill, despite previously opposing it.
The anti-homosexuality bill, which calls for the execution of gays in the African country, was effectively shelved last year by the government, following sustained pressure from international donor countries.
Also facing deportation is Esther Sarah Nakyejwe a 43-year-old Ugandan woman who came to the UK as a student in 2001, to join her sister and nieces and nephews in the UK.
But she has faced problems, she says, with renewing her visa.
Nakyejwe has been working for Britain’s National Health Service as a health care assistant for the past 10 years and says ‘she has nothing to return to in Uganda’.
Both are part of the ‘Yarl’s Wood Five’ group which has now grown from the initial two to five and now to 25 members.
As well as supporting each other and developing their legal and campaigning tactics the women have highlighted abuses against LGBT asylum seekers they claim are happening at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.
Karen Doyle of Movement for Justice, which has been helping the women, told GSN: ‘It is not surprising that lesbian women have led the way in detention for a fight for all women.
‘The truth is that the oppression, abuse and persecution that lesbian women face is shared by so many women in detention who have also faced rape, forced marriage, being attacked by mobs, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.
‘In countries where LGBT people face persecution, women in general also face abuse and persecution with either the blessing of the authorities or little to no protection from the state.’
Alice Nji, a lesbian asylum seeker from Cameroon, is also in the group. She had her deportation halted the other day after protesting on the plane but the UK will try to deport her again on 16 October.
Campaigners want people to protest directly to the airlines to stop the deportations.
Nsumba is due to fly back to Uganda on Saturday (22 September) on Qatar Airways (Flight QR76 and QR536 to Entebbe, Uganda via Doha, Qatar. Leaving at 4pm on 22 September to arrive in Entebbe at 12.55pm on 23 September). Qatar Airways can be phoned on +44 (0)20 8846 8380.
Nakyejwe is due for deportation back to Uganda on Thursday (20 September), on Kenya Airways (flight KQ101). The airline can be contacted on +44 (0)20 8283 1800.
Movement for Justice is running a petition for the Yarl’s Wood women which can be read and signed here.