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UK: Ugandan lesbian’s deportation order stopped at 11th hour

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The deportation order of a lesbian asylum seeker in the UK was cancelled today, June 18, mere hours before she would have boarded a flight back to her native Uganda, Pink News reports.

Human rights advocates said Happy Rwehobuganzi, who had been detained for four months, faced homophobic persecution if she returned to the African country. According to the report, Rwehobuganzi made several applications and appeals to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the High Court that were turned down because there was not enough evidence to prove that she is a lesbian. In appealing on Rwehobuganzi's behalf, her supporters cited the case of another lesbian asylum seeker, Jackie Nanyonjo, who died in Uganda after she was deported to her country in January.  

According to Pink News, spokespeople for Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) said Nanyonjo, who died on March 8, strenuously fought her deportation order, became ill in the process, and did not receive timely medical attention when she was handed over to Ugandan authorities at Entebbe International Airport. “When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed," MFJ said in a statement. 

The UKBA and the Home Office have denied human rights advocates' claims that they frequently deport queer asylum seekers who face persecution in their countries of origin, Pink News says.

In February, lawyer S Chelvan called for reform of the way the UKBA handles queer asylum cases at the Law Society’s 11th annual Stonewall Lecture.

Chelvan told The Huffington Post there is "an embedded culture of disbelief. We say immediately, ‘We don’t believe you, you go away and prove it.’ It’s a clear breach of human rights, it’s inhuman and degrading." 

He said the high levels of suspicion asylum seekers face means that some even feel pressured to show border-agency authorities sex tapes.

"No court would ask a claimant to provide a film. But gay asylum seekers feel they have to go to these lengths," Chelvan said. 

"When we are deciding these claims we have to go out of the bedroom, into the outside world. It's in the outside world a lesbian or gay asylum seeker faces the real risk of harm," he argued.

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