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Monday, 21 February 2005

Gay Algerian Faces Deportation After 10 Years in UK

Source: UK Gay News

After living a happy, secure life in Britain since he was 15, a 25-year old gay Algerian, Saad B, now faces being torn apart from his lover and deported to his violently homophobic homeland of Algeria.

And Saad B’s partner of four years, Matthew Skelly, is pleading for him to be allowed to stay in the UK.

“I am left cold inside at the thought I could lose my boyfriend. I try to block things out and get on with life as normal, but the constant worry and sleepless nights serve as a reminder that two lives can be so arbitrarily ruined. I pray every night that sense and compassion will prevail; that Saad will be allowed to stay with me in the UK”, he said.

The irony of the current situation is that the UK is only months away from the “enactment” of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which the Government insists is same-sex marriage in all but name.  If the couple were registered under the Civil Partnership Act, there would be no question of deportation.

Saad’s asylum application has been rejected.  All his appeals have been turned down – despite the fact that he has lived his entire adult life in the UK.

Last week the courts turned down his request for a Judicial Review into the way his asylum application has been handled by the Home Office.

Saad B is panic-stricken: “I fear for my safety and mental well-being if I am sent back to Algeria,” he said.

Gay rights group OutRage! is backing Saad’s asylum bid. “The way Saad is being treated is typical of the inhumanity of the asylum system,” Outrage! spokesperson Brett Lock said.  “It is appalling the government wants to deport him to a country he barely knows, where his family have disowned him, and where he has no friends.

“If he is forcibly returned, Saad will be at risk of imprisonment by the Algerian authorities and could be murdered by the country’s violently anti-gay Islamic fundamentalists,” he pointed out.

Peter Tatchell said that sending Saad back to Algeria would tear his life apart.

“He has established a happy, fulfilling gay life in Britain. It is unbelievably cruel for the Home Office to expect him to return to Algeria, hide his sexuality, and live in constant fear of arrest and murder”, said Mr Tatchell.

Saad B, whose name is not being revealed as he could well be targeted in Algeria if he is forcible returned, could face up to three years in jail if he is deported to the country where homosexuality is illegal.  And gay prisoners face beating and rape, Outrage! said.

In Algeria the police and army harass and brutalise gay people with impunity and Islamic fundamentalists target queers for assassination.  Public attitudes are violently homophobic. Honour killings by family members and neighbours are not uncommon.

Saad B has been rejected by his family. He has no friends in Algeria. It would be like being exiled to a foreign land.

“I grew up in the UK,” Saad B explained.  “I belong here. I have no other home to go to and I don’t want to live anywhere else.  The UK is the only place I know.  I haven’t lived anywhere else since my childhood.  Here I felt I was free, alive and safe. I grew up fast and worked hard to build my life here.  I can’t imagine hiding in Algeria and leading a ‘discreet’ life, like the Home Office suggests.

“I’d rather die,” he said emotionally.

“I have been in this country for ten years, during which time I have enjoyed the freedom of living my sexual identity openly, without the fear of being found out,” he continued. “Back in Algeria, it would be impossible and extremely dangerous to lead an openly gay lifestyle.  Homosexuals in Algeria suffer all types of persecution and inhuman treatments.

“Going back to Algeria will expose me to great danger, and reignite the hostility and hatred my family feel towards me. I cannot live discreetly, because I cannot pretend to be someone other than my true myself.

“No matter where I went, I would be always vulnerable to blackmail, bullying, harassment, violence, rape and torture from the police, army, fundamentalists, vigilantes and my own family”, said Saad B.

The irony of the current situation is that the UK is only months away from the “enactment” of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – and Saad has been in a relationship for almost four years.

“I first met Saad in April 2001 and after a couple of dates I knew I was in love for the first time in my life,” said Matthew Skelly.  “Without hesitation, I moved to Woolwich to be with him. The past four years have been the greatest of my life.

Saad B is asking reader’s to send messages of support to his solicitor: Mr H Samra, Sheikh and Co Solicitors, 208 Seven Sisters Road, London N4 3NX. These letters will then be presented to the Home Secretary in support of his request to remain in the UK.

Compiled by Outrage!

Saad B. vs The Home Secretary

Saad B was born in 1979 in north-east Algeria. In 1992, at the height of the Algerian civil war, the area became a stronghold of the Islamic fundamentalist insurgents of the Groupe Islamique Armée (GIA).

In 1994, when SB was 14, the local GIA threatened his parents with ‘repercussions’ unless SB joined their forces. The forced recruitment of young people into the terrorist army was then very common, with child draftees being used to assist with bombings and assassinations.

At his parent’s request, SB fled the country. After a period in Spain, and then France (where his eldest sister lives), he was eventually brought into Britain by a family friend, a few days after his 15th birthday. He relied on his family friend to make an application for asylum on his behalf, but this person failed to do so.

SB’s guardian subsequently disappeared and he was left alone. After six months, the isolation became overpowering. In 1996, SB fled to Belgium (where his eldest brother lives). But he was returned from Brussels the same day, due to his lack of authorised travel documents.

On his return, SB applied for asylum. At this point, UK immigration officials incorrectly assessed him as an adult and he was interned in an adult prison (HMP Rochester) for nearly one year, until social services recognised the mistake and secured his release.

This error by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) apparently extinguished consideration of his asylum application and his long-standing presence in Britain.

SB was provided with housing and support in Worthing. However, on receiving a letter from the IND requesting an interview, SB panicked. Fearing this meant he would again be detained in HMP Rochester, he fled to his brother in Belgium. On this occasion he stayed there approximately six weeks.

His brother advised him to return to Britain and resume his asylum application. On being interviewed by immigration officials on his return, SB reiterated his claim for asylum. His current claim therefore dates from January 1998 (because his previous claim was incorrectly discounted).

The original reasons for SB leaving Algeria and coming to Britain stemmed from a genuine fear of forced conscription into the GIA terrorist army.

The entire last ten years of SB’s life, between the ages of 15 to 25, have been spent in the UK (apart from an absence of 6 weeks).

All his friends are here. All his work experience is here.  Britain is his home.

Since coming to the UK, SB has realised he is gay – and has begun to accept his sexuality - something he would probably have never been able to do if he had remained in the repressive, threatening, violent and homophobic atmosphere of Algeria.

One result of him being gay is that his entire family, on whom he relied so heavily, have ceased contact with him.

If he was deported back to Algeria, he would be returning to a country he barely remembers, with no family support or protection.

SB’s 1998 application for asylum was eventually considered in July 2003. It was only at that moment he told the IND he was gay. This was unsurprising since SB has found it incredibly difficult to reconcile his sexuality with his Muslim faith – let alone being open about it to other people – especially government officials.

It is acknowledged by the IND that SB is homosexual and homosexuality in Algeria is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment. Nevertheless, his application was refused by the Home Office.

SB appealed this decision in October 2003 and was refused again. It was suggested by the asylum adjudicator that he would be in no danger of persecution in Algeria if he was ‘discreet’ ie. kept his sexuality secret. Having been increasingly open and well-adjusted about his homosexuality, SB would find it an incredible strain to go back into the closet and always being looking over his shoulder in case he was discovered and arrested or murdered.

It was also suggested by the adjudicator that the close friendships, and a long-term gay relationship he had formed with Matthew Skelly, did not warrant consideration. This ruling does not accord to the rights enshrined in Articles 3 & 8 respectively of the Human Rights Act 1998.

SB subsequently appealed once more against the adjudicator's decision in October 2004.  His appeal was dismissed.

Application for a Judicial Review of the case has been lodged, and SB awaits a decision in the coming weeks or months.


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