Aidah Asaba is a Ugandan refugee who thought Britain would give her safety from the violence and intimidation of her birth country. She was wrong. Now the UK is preparing to deport her, partly because it says she hasn’t acted gay enough to prove her asylum claim.
Asaba, who is 27, came to the UK in October 2013 seeking asylum in the midst of the anti-gay fervor that would lead to the passing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has since caused widespread violence and further institutionalized homophobia. Her specific stated reasons for leaving Uganda was that her family had become hostile and even violent after learning that she is a lesbian.
She tells GayStarNews that her father locked her in a room and beat her with his fists, and that even after moving away, community leaders found out that she was a lesbian and accused her of recruiting other young women. Asaba could not go to the police as that meant she would have to reveal her sexuality — thus most likely putting herself in danger of being prosecuted.
Asaba says that her father later had her return home and forced her to marry a man. She alleges her husband regularly beat and raped her. She has a four-year-old daughter with that man whom she was forced to leave behind when she came to Britain. She also states that the authorities are now aware of her — her family should have informed the police about her under Uganda’s new anti-gay law — and so she says she cannot return to Uganda for fear of being prosecuted.
Despite this, when Asaba applied for asylum in January she was placed in an asylum detention center. Reports allege that the UK first mishandled her asylum claim, and then denied her asylum partly on the basis that because Asaba did not frequent gay clubs while in the UK, her claim to be a lesbian was not provable or likely authentic. The UK Home Office has fast-tracked her deportation, which campaigners say has denied Asaba the chance to gather further evidence to prove her sexuality.
This is despite the fact that two major organizations have offered to vouch for Asaba, including Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda who contends that Asaba had contacted his organization while still in Uganda, and the Africa Out and Proud Diamond Group which also believes Asaba’s story is authentic and is supporting her asylum claim.
Regardless, Asaba is scheduled to be sent back to Uganda on this Saturday, May 24. She is calling on MPs and anyone that might hear her to have mercy because, she says, she fears there might be no coming back:
“I fear for my life if they will take me back to Uganda, my life has become worthless,” she is quoted as saying. “I wish I wasn’t born, it is too much for me to bear. I cannot believe I am going to meet my death in Uganda because of my sexuality… I am only praying for a miracle to happen such that I can live my life without fear of being persecuted or killed because of my sexuality. Please I beg the UK Government to help me.”
The UK’s asylum system has become notorious for the way in which it has treated LGBT applicants and, in March, Home Secretary Theresa May was forced to announce that she would be conducting a review into how LGBT asylum claims are being handled. Care2 has previously reported on a number of cases where LGBTs have faced deportation as a result of the UK’s hostile asylum system.
The review into asylum case-handling has yet to be published, but evidence shows that LGBTs are suffering under the system because proving their identity, especially when rating it against Western and more liberal attitudes, is incredibly difficult. Asylum seekers have even gone to the length of taking pictures and filming themselves having sex with a same-sex partner to try to convince the authorities.
Given that two respected human rights groups are willing to vouch for Asaba, as well as the UK government’s own admitted failures in how it is handling LGBT asylum claims, Asaba’s case seems particularly suspect and, indeed, desperate. If the UK does return her to Uganda on Saturday, she faces re-entering a country where violence, intimidation and prosecution for no other reason than being perceived as LGBT is on the rise. No country that claims to support LGBT rights, or even basic human rights, can allow that to happen.
UPDATE: The UK announced on Friday that it would not follow through on an attempt to deport Aidah Asaba and that it will further review her case for asylum. Campaigners have stressed that there is still a need to keep pressure on the government to ensure that Asaba’s case gets a fair hearing. Thank you to the hundreds of people who have already signed the petition. If you haven’t, please do sign to let the British government know that Aidah Asaba’s very life could be in danger if she is sent back to Uganda.
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