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UK told asylum seeker, raped by police, she can’t be gay as she has kids

UK told asylum seeker, raped by police, she can’t be gay as she has kids

Espoir Njei at a Pride event

A UK official told a asylum seeker raped by police she cannot be gay as she has kids, she has alleged.

Espoir Njei, originally from Cameroon, fled the homophobic country after her girlfriend had been killed.

Previously she had been raped by her husband, and by police.

A Home Office official also told her, she alleges, that she couldn’t have grown up in a religious family and be gay.

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 by her uncle, then police, then by a husband

Njei discovered her sexuality at the age of 14. Raped and abused by her uncle, she says ‘any urge for men’ had truly ‘fled’ from her mind.

She went to a single-sex girls’ school, and had her first partner at 18.

‘We would hand in hand, and no one would care as we were girls,’ she told Gay Star News.

‘Unfortunately, on one ocassion, we went to a toilet outside a house. We were by ourselves, and nobody could see us. We were kissing each other.

‘But there was one guy looking for a toilet. He saw us kissing and told us it was an abomination.’

The couple ran, and the man screamed. He kept shouting they were an ‘abomination’, and a mob formed.

While her girlfriend escaped, Njei was caught.

‘I was beaten, I was molested, I was dragged to a police post. If you are a lady they will rape you. I was raped by two officers who were on duty at the station,’ she said.

She said she was raped for two days continuously, and was released on the fourth day.

‘Normally you are not released without a bribe,’ Njei said. ‘I couldn’t ask my father how much he paid for my release.’

Everyone knew what Njei had been caught doing.

‘It was hell. I couldn’t walk freely on the streets,’ she added.

Forced marriage: ‘He had to beat me until my strength had given up.’

Her family gave her no option but a forced marriage.

‘If he wanted to have sex with me, he had to beat me until my strength had given up,’ Njei said. ‘I was not as strong as a man. In the marriage I had four kids. I’m so happy that I had these four kids. But the marriage was very sad.’

The years past, and Njei felt trapped.

But then she met Grace, another gay woman trapped in a loveless forced marriage. The two got close. Their private moments felt like the first taste of freedom.

The two hoped to flee their marriages together.

Fleeing Cameroon after her girlfriend was killed

Grace’s husband found out.

‘The police and her husband had come to arrest her,’ Neji said. ‘Fortunately for me I had stepped out to get water. When I saw them, I took out my phone to inform her. But before I could call, they were already in the room.

‘I heard screaming, shouting “please help me”. She was beaten by police.

‘I had to flee the country. Later, I heard she had died. I knew I couldn’t come back. They stole my wallet and my ID card. They were looking for me and I knew I wouldn’t survive if I was arrested.’

So Njei came to the UK in December 2016, a place she believed was a believer in universal human rights.

In her case, she claims a Home Office official demanded she bring her partner to her hearing. Njei’s current partner, who she met in the UK, was too frightened to attend.

Called a ‘liar’

She said she’s been ‘frustrated’ by the treatment. Njei has said officials have said she is a ‘liar’ because she has kids.

The asylum seeker has not spoken to her kids, aged 22, 21, 19 and 14, since she left Cameroon. She said she ‘cannot wait’ for the day her children can see her happy, safe and proud.

‘The Home Office doesn’t believe me. They want proof. The Home Office expects me to have a partner for the sake of a partner.’

Njei’s current case is suspended. If Home Office accepts another claim it will go back to court. Her case may also go to judicial review.

She feels the current asylum system is ‘deeply flawed’ and a ‘lottery’. It depends, she says, on the courts, the officials and the judges and their own prejudices.

‘I feel sad. I’m filled with regret. If this law wasn’t imposed on us… maybe life wouldn’t have been like this,’ Njei said.

‘We are suffering from something. [Homophobic laws] were imposed on us and our parents.

‘She added: ‘What better life [did we come here for]? For crying out loud, we do not have a better life here. We’re safe, but it’s not better.

Rainbow Rush scandal

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.