Opinion: Mike Hancock has grave concerns for a gay constituent facing deportation to Uganda

Robert Segwanyi is a gay man from Uganda. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, and Robert was imprisoned and, he says, tortured because he is gay.

In June last year, he escaped and fled to Britain.

Now the UK Border Agency want to send him back.

UKBA does not accept he is gay and a judge rejected his appeal claiming that there is no risk to gay people in Uganda.

This is what Amnesty International said about Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Laws:

Both the current law and the proposed new law violate a number of human rights including the rights to equality and non-discrimination, privacy, liberty and security of the person, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The situation in Uganda has only worsened since then, with the publication by Uganda’s Rolling Stone magazine of a list of names of alleged gay people being linked to the murder this January of David Kato, the human rights activist who sued the paper over his inclusion on the list.

And in February of this year, UKBA’s own guidance was updated to recognise the dangers to LGBT people in Uganda.

In spite of this, the Border Agency still want to try and sent Robert back.

An attempt to deport him on 11 July this year was only halted by the last minute intervention of Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock and Labour MEP Michael Cashman. UKBA intend to try again tomorrow, Wednesday 10th August.

Among the problems that Mike Hancock believes there are with this case include:

1. Misrepresentation in Robert’s appeal by Immigration Judge Hembrough of the evidence of Professor Cornelius Katona, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In his ruling, the judge states that Prof. Katona did not consider Mr Segwani to be gay – yet Prof. Katona has said that this is “with respect, incorrect”.

2. New evidence including from John Bosco Nyombi, a gay Ugandan who won his asylum case and who has recently met Mr Segwanyi. UKBA forcibly deported John in 2008 even though he had an outstanding judicial review on his case, an action that British Judges later ruled to be “manifestly unlawful”. John says of Robert:

“When I met him face to face, it was obvious that Robert is gay. The way he was talking, the mannerism and mentioning some of Ugandan gay guys I from Uganda. Robert told me what he has been through and from my experience I knew it did happen to him as it happened to me when people in Uganda came to know about my sexuality.”

3. Incorrect application of the recent unanimous Supreme Court Judgement on gay asylum seekers (known as HJ & HT v SSHD) that homosexual asylum seekers should be granted refugee status if going home would result in them being forced to conceal their sexuality. Following this ruling, even the Home Secretary Theresa May agreed that

“I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.”

4. Continued old-fashioned attitudes by immigration judges and a system that does not allow for the extreme nervousness that LGBT people may have in admitting their sexuality to people in authority following their experiences.

Mike Hancock said:

“I understand that Mr Segwanyi’s lawyer is putting in further representations. And I hope that between the legal system and the UK Border Agency, there can finally be some justice for Mr Segwanyi.”

For more on this story, please read Mike Hancock’s website and the Gay Asylum News blog.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • The Boarders Agency? Where’s he from, Charterhouse?

  • paul canning 10th Aug '11 - 11:07am

    Thanks Richard for covering this and your comments Duncan.

    This case is very worrying as contrary to what is usually said by Home Office there is masses of evidence, which myself and Mike Hancock’s office have shown, both that Robert is gay and that he was tortured in prison as he says. This was dismissed first by a judge and now, in a letter to Hancock, by the head of UKBA. Their attitude I’d have to describe as belligerent. We’re seeing other cases where evidence of sexuality and what people have fled from is being dismissed in sometimes bizarre ways.

    From July all cases are recorded now, so it is to be hoped that in the future we will have hard facts on rejection levels.

    It is clear to those of us dealing with LGBT asylum cases that the government’s pledge cannot be said to have met and with a background of decreased access to good legal advice does give the appearance of actually getting worse.

  • Michael Andrewes 10th Aug '11 - 10:50pm

    I am Mike Hancock’s constituency researcher.

    As an update Mr Segwanyi’s removal directions which were set for tonight have been deferred as his lawyers have put in a fresh claim and that is being considered.

    It would be useful if people would consider contacting their own MPs and encourage their friends, families, relatives etc. to do the same. To both highlight the specific case and the worries that Mike has about it and also the issues that it raises as regards the issue of LGBT asylum seekers and particularly more is done to implement Stonewall’s report – No Going Back and its four areas of recommendations – see http://www.stonewall.org.uk/what_we_do/research_and_policy/2874.asp . Mr Segwanyi initially applied for asylum in July 2010 and the report was published in April 2010. The acting Chief Executive say that they implemented training for their caseworkers – presumably since July 2010 as it is not evident in Mr Segwanyi’s case but there are also other recommendations which I don’t think have been implemented.

    You can contact your MP via http://www.writetothem.com or especially effective is to write an individual handwritten (or may be typed!) letter in the post to your MP. We don’t know how long the UKBA will take to consider the lawyers fresh legal representations but it may be a very short time indeed. It is not normally the case that the Home Office/UKBA will respond in detail to MPs who are not the constituent’s own MP but other MPs raising the case is useful and also there are the general issues of LGBT asylum cases.

    I think there may be a perception among the public that claiming to be gay is an “easy” way to claim asylum but the Stonewall report shows that 98% of LGBT asylum cases are rejected at the initial stage against 78.5% generally.

    There are a number of worrying aspects of this. The first is the UKBA’s country reports. There was an Amnesty International Report published in April 2010. This found: “section 145 of the Penal Code Act [in Uganda] has been and continues to be used by the police and other law enforcement officials to subject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda to arbitrary arrest and detention often resulting in torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

    However the UKBA’s country report was only updated in 2011. This impacted on Mr Segwanyi’s appeal heard last year in two ways. Firstly his credibility was doubted because he couldn’t have been persecuted because there was according to the appeal judge no persecution of LGBT people in Uganda! Secondly he could be safely sent back (even if he was gay which wasn’t accepted) because there was no persecution of LGBT people!

    A second worrying aspect is the appeal judge considered whether if he was gay, Mr Segwanyi would satisfy the HJ and HT v SSHD case. Now I am not a lawyer but my feeling is strongly that his reasoning and his interpretation of this judgement were wrong.

    I am very grateful to the work and blog of Paul Canning who has been tremendously useful in this and also Mr Segwanyi’s lawyers as asylum cases and LGBT ones in particular are difficult and also Haslar Detention Centre visitors group.

    I think there are defintely general issues on LGBT asylum outlined that we as Lib Dems should take forward with our MPs, Ministers, DELGA and generally.

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