Why does England hate Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker Lazia Nabbanja? #SetHerFree

Why does England hate Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker Lazia Nabbanja? For that matter, why has England hated Ugandan lesbian asylum seekers Brenda Namigadde, Jackie Nanyonjo, Betty Tibikawa, Anne Nasozzi and so many others? Why has England invested so much time, energy, resources into torturing these women who have already been tortured by their families, neighbors and the State? Why does England continue to subject lesbian asylum seekers to the degradations and humiliations of the society of the queer spectacle? What threat do these Black lesbian women pose to the security of England and Wales? Today, Lazia Nabbanja, just another Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker, sits in Yarl’s Wood awaiting deportation. Why?

Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar. In 2009, Lazia Nabbanja’s family forced her to marry a man. Seven years later he discovered her with her girlfriend. He beat her and left her unconscious. She fled, first to her grandparents’ house and then to the United Kingdom, where she applied for asylum. In England, Home Affairs decided that Lazia Nabbanja is not sufficiently lesbian to warrant asylum and sent her to Yarl’s Wood. Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar.

Despite Lazia Nabbanja’s story, including photos, being spread across Ugandan media, Home Affairs claims that she would not be in danger if she returned “home.” Again, Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar. This is the story of Brenda Namigadde, Jackie Nanyonjo, Betty Tibikawa, Anne Nasozzi, and now Lazia Nabbanja.

An online petition is circulating: URGENT: STOP THE REMOVAL OF LAZIA NABBANJA (A LESBIAN WOMAN) TO UGANDA. Please consider signing it. Consider, as well, the urgency of this question: Why does England hate Lazia Nabbanja?

 

(Photo Credit: The Independent / The Petition Site)

The ongoing persecution of LGBT asylum seekers must end! Where is the outrage?

 

In the past two weeks, two separate reports have highlighted the ongoing persecution of LGBT asylum seekers in the United States and the United Kingdom. On October 26, Stonewall and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, or UKLGIG, released No Safe Refuge: Experiences of LGBT Asylum Seekers in Detention. On the same day, the Center for American Progress released its finding, “ICE Officers Overwhelmingly Use Their Discretion to Detain LGBT Immigrants.” While the research of both organizations is both urgent and important and the stories are all too familiarly heartrending, the only new piece in both reports is that the abuse of LGBT asylum seekers is intensifying and expanding, and even that is not really new, since the pattern has been ongoing for some time now. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals travel great journeys to arrive at something like haven or sanctuary, and they are increasingly thrown into cages where they are rendered ever more vulnerable. Consider a cursory examination of the past five years.

Brenda Namigadde fled Uganda in 2003 after her house was destroyed and her life was threatened … because her life partner was a woman. Namigadde fled to the United Kingdom, where she sought asylum. In 2011, she was turned down, because of insufficient proof of `being lesbian’. Namigadde was sent to Yarl’s Wood, where she awaited, in terror, to be deported to Uganda. Thanks to an international campaign and the murder of David Kato just days before her scheduled deportation flight, Brenda Namigadde’s case was re-opened.

Also in 2011, Betty Tibikawa, a Ugandan lesbian who applied for asylum in the United Kingdom, was turned down and thrown in Yarl’s Wood. Betty Tibikawa’s family had disowned her. The infamous Ugandan tabloid, the Red Pepper, identified Tibikawa as lesbian, and so extended the threat to her life and well being. And she had been tortured. Having just graduated from high school, Betty Tibikawa was preparing to go to university in Kampala when three men abducted her. They took her to an abandoned building and branded her thighs with a hot iron. They left her unconscious. She remained at home, in bed, for two months. In the home of the family that then disowned her for being lesbian. Betty Tibikawa was deemed insufficiently lesbian for asylum.

Jackie Nanyonjo died in Kampala, Uganda, March 8, 2013. Jackie Nanyonjo was a lesbian who fled Uganda, made it to England, and applied for asylum. Jackie Nanyonjo fought for the rights, power and dignity of women, LGBTI individuals and communities, lesbians, asylum seekers. She fought for those rights on the streets; in the cells and corridors of Yarl’s Wood; and in the airplane that took her back to Kampala. When she arrived in Kampala, she went into hiding. She didn’t contact members of the organized LGBT rights communities, most likely because of the pogroms against lesbians and gays and their organizations. And so she died in hiding.

In 2014, Aidah Asaba, a Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker in England, was thrown into Yarl’s Wood, again for insufficient lesbianism. While Aidah Asaba sat in Yarl’s Wood, openly lesbian Anne Nasozzi was taken from Yarl’s Wood and deported to Uganda.

In 2014, the United Kingdom tried to crush Nigerian lesbian, feminist, asylum seeker Aderonke Apata. They threw her into Yarl’s Wood. She organized and mobilized. They tried to cast doubt on her claim of being a lesbian. She looked at them with pity, and then provided evidence. They tried to silence her. She founded Manchester Migrant Solidarity, aka MiSol, “a convergence space for migrants (including asylum seekers, economic migrants etc.) and non-migrants, offering practical and social activities for mutual support, empowerment and solidarity.” Today, Aderonke Apata is still organizing across England, surrounded by the ghosts of sisters sent off and the voices of sisters inside.

The stories in the United States, such as that of Sulma Franco, a 31-year-old LGBT activist, are equally disgraceful and disturbing. Except that the State is neither disgraced nor disturbed, and therein lies the tragedy. There have been and will be reports, thoroughly researched and nothing short of tragic. And through the long trek of reports, the situation worsens. Proportionately more lesbian, gay, bi, and trans asylum seekers are incarcerated, and in raw numbers more LGBT asylum seekers are behind bars. The persecution intensifies as it expands. There is still little to no concern among the magistrates and judges, and little to less than no training among the staff, and so the violations continue, intensify and expand.

Where is the outrage? Why must vulnerable people, and in particular lesbian and transgender women, go through the heroics of Aderonke Apata or Sulma Franco in order to secure a modicum of dignity and respect from the State? How many stories of torture and trauma will it take before we close this era of witch trials?

 

 

(Image Credit 1: Center for American Progress) (Image Credit 2: Stonewall)

Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda on Wednesday 9th April

 

Openly lesbian Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda last night. Despite threats to the entire gay and lesbian community, Anne Nasozzi was deported, from the United Kingdom, to Uganda. Despite death threats against her personally, Anne Nasozzi was taken from Yarl’s Wood to the airport, where she was put on a Kenya Airways flight. There is no asylum, there is only disgrace, injustice, violence, visited more often than not on women.

Until December of last year, Anne Nasozzi lived in a village, where she earned her keep by renting out ten rooms. Remarkably, Nasozzi chose to rent her rooms to gay women, and so, thanks to her courage, eleven lesbians lived together, formed community together, and built a kind of haven together, for each other.

In December, a mob of `neighbors’, councilors, and members of Anne Nasozzi’s family attacked the house. Much of the property was razed to the ground. Residents who couldn’t get away were severely beaten. Anne Nasozzi escaped.

She fled to a friend’s house. There she managed to secure the deed to her house, the only thing still standing on her property, sold it, and fled to England. She arrived in England in December. From December until yesterday, Anne Nasozzi was imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood. That’s the State response to women, and especially African women, who seek asylum.

Anne Nasozzi describes being shipped to Uganda as “assisted suicide.” She’s too kind. It’s torture and murder, and it’s a disgrace.

Reports suggest that, in Uganda, those `suspected of homosexuality’ are hunted, imprisoned, and tortured. The State recently raided a clinic famous for its clinical and research work in HIV and AIDS, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project. Why? Because the clinic was “recruiting gays”, this according to the police spokesperson. The gay and lesbian community is being hunted and persecuted and worse. There is no question about this.

At the same time, the Uganda Human Rights Commission released a report yesterday that documents a dramatic increase in the number of people illegally detained and in the incidence of torture, cruelty, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Dangerous overcrowded prisons are ruled by an iron hand of violence. This awaits Anne Nasozzi.

If there is a rule of law in this story, it’s the law of man’s inhumanity to man … or better to women. The endpoint of efficiency driven, fast-track so-called asylum procedures is disgrace. This disgrace is not a state of being nor is it an affective domain. It’s a transitive verb, a relentlessly vicious and violent campaign to strip ever more grace from those who cherish it the most, from those whom we should cherish. There is no asylum, there is only disgrace and violence. Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda yesterday. Remember that.

 

(Image Credit: AlJazeera)