A UK government official told a gay asylum seeker to find religion and be ‘cured’ of their sexuality, the seeker has alleged.
Awori, from a village in east Uganda, has claimed the Home Office failed to carry out a proper investigation.
This is just one story of the Rainbow Rush, showing the ineptitude and ignorance of the UK Home Office when dealing with LGBTI asylum seekers.
Raped, beaten and forcibly married at 14
Forced to work as a labourer as a child, she grew up very poor. Raped by the son of the couple that was looking after her, she was traumatized at a young age.
But she got close to the daughter, and got into a relationship. At this point, she was 14.
‘[The mother] found us and she beat us,’ Awori, now 37, told Gay Star News. ‘She told us it was something very evil. We were separated from there and the girl was taken away.
‘My dad decided to force me into marriage. Because you’re voiceless, you have no one to defend you or support you.’
As the years past, Awori was living in hell. Raped by her much-older husband, she was forced to bear his children.
She managed to get the courage to flee from him and moved to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. She became the team leader in an office and met a new partner.
But history repeated, and the two were caught kissing by a neighbor.
UK official told Ugandan asylum seeker ‘to repent and stop being a lesbian’
‘She told us she would report us the authorities,’ Awori said, knowing she had to flee to the UK.
‘When the [Home Office] first refused my asylum claim, they detained me for four hours,’ she said.
‘This man, he told me to change and stop being a lesbian. Is that really allowed? I thought they promoted diversity and equality.
‘This Home Office guy asked me to change. He told me to go to a church and repent and then I will stop claiming I am a lesbian.’
Awori added: ‘He kept intimidating me, yelling: “You’re the people causing problems in this country!” I put my complaint in about it and they refused to investigate it.’
Her case is stalled. Because Awori is not confident in her English, she needs an interpreter. She is from a people called Jopadhola and the language is Dhopadhola.
She claims her request for an interpreter that spoke her language was denied. She says she was only offered one that spoke Luganda, the majority language in Uganda.
When she has given evidence of her kissing her girlfriend, who was given asylum a few years ago, this has also been rejected.
‘[The UK] says they are promoting human rights….If that isn’t given to everyone, then it doesn’t exist.’
‘The UK hasn’t done enough,’ she added. ‘They haven’t done enough to protect LGBTI people from Commonwealth countries.
‘They say they are promoting human rights, equality and diversity. If that isn’t given to everyone, then it doesn’t exist.’
The UK has recently faced widespread backlash after the Windrush scandal. Around 57,000 people, who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries in the 50s and 60s, were suddenly considered ‘illegal immigrants’. This led to several people facing forced removal from a country they have lived their whole lives.
The Conservative party, in a policy instituted by Prime Minister Theresa May, aimed for an ‘ambitious target’ to deport immigrants in the UK. This scandal then led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
LGBTI people are often the worst victims of the asylum system in the UK.
Data shows the Home Office, in the past two years, have turned away two thirds of the 3,535 gay or bi asylum applications. Many of these people have true stories, and are victims of some of the worst personal traumas imaginable. However when they come to the UK, they are treated with suspicion, discrimination and appear to be sent home to fulfil a ‘quota’.
The Home Office has denied claims its practices are prejudiced.
A spokesperson said: ‘The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we do not deport anyone at risk of persecution because of their sexuality.’
Activists are now calling on the UK government to drastically change the way they operate asylum and ensure people are not returned to homophobic countries.
All this week, Gay Star News will be posting stories about asylum and immigration around the Rainbow Rush scandal. On Thursday, we will post an open letter calling for the UK government to change its stance on LGBTI asylum seekers.