2 min

Immigration roulette

Alvaro Orozco is lucky. After spending almost a month in a
detention centre awaiting deportation, he was released on June 1. The
Nicaraguan-born gay artist was granted a stay on humanitarian and compassionate
grounds — he is now free to apply to become a permanent resident of Canada.

Betty Tibikawa, 22, is not so lucky. Tibikawa is a Ugandan
woman detained at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in
the United Kingdom. She was branded in her home country as a punishment for
being a lesbian; now she is waiting to be sent back after her asylum claim was

An article from the Guardian reported that Tibikawa was attacked by three men who pinned her down
in an abandoned building and branded her on her inner thighs with a hot iron. She
was left unconscious, and when she finally managed to get home she was confined
to bed for two months. An independent medical report confirmed that her scars
are consistent with being branded.

Tibikawa says that she cannot sleep at night because of
the nightmares she has of what will happen to her when she is sent back to
Uganda. She has no one there to support her —  her family has disowned her because of her sexuality.

Despite the compelling medical evidence to back up
Tibikawa’s story, the UK’s border agency concluded that she did not suffer any
ill treatment in Uganda. Their conclusion is, therefore, to deport Tibakawa to
a country where being gay is illegal and where her life will be at risk.

Tibikawa is the second Ugandan woman this year to be
threatened with deportation. In January, Brenda Namigadde was in the same
immigration centre as Tibikawa, waiting for her fate to be decided, when Ugandan activist David Kato was murdered.

There was a worldwide petition of support for Namigadde and she
was granted a temporary injunction to stay in the UK, the day before she
was supposed to be deported. Her case will come before the court of appeal in

Let’s hope that Tibikawa is as lucky as Orozco and Namigadde.
No one should be made to return to a country, whether or not it is home, where
he or she will be persecuted for his or her sexuality.

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