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Sunday, 31 May 2009

In a major victory for LGBT asylum, Ugandan John Bosco defeats the Home Office


By Paul Canning

Following an eight year ordeal the Ugandan gay asylum seeker John 'Bosco' Nyombi has finally won asylum in the UK.

Despite a well-documented media and government anti-gay campaign in Uganda, which has included articles and photos of Bosco, he was deported in September last year. The UK Border Agency making it usual claim that LGBT can be safe in such countries if only they are 'discreet'. However the method of his deportation, which involved deception, violence and rule breaking, led to a historic decision by a British court following which the Home Office was forced to return him to the UK in March, where he was immediately put into a detention centre due to an 'error'.

As Bosco feared for his safety if he was returned, and also because the Home Office might use any publicity about his case against him, a court ruling meant that subsequent media reports referred to him Mister X.

On his return to Uganda, Bosco had been dumped by UK officials with no support (LGBT asylum seekers are regularly returned without their mobile phones, clothing other than what's on their backs or other basic items or given any opportunity to put their affairs in order) and was arrested. He managed to escape after paying a bribe.

As his face and situation was known through the local media's anti-gay campaigning he went into hiding. Twice during this time he was caught by Ugandan police and put into prison where he was violently beaten by both staff and inmates because he is gay.

Bosco won his return because a judge Sir George Newman, said the Home Office was guilty of "a grave and serious breach" of the law. He had an outstanding judicial review but despite this he was deceived into a meeting at a removal centre where he was instead bundled into a van and taken to Gatwick airport.

At the airport, when he resisted leaving the van, he was handcuffed, punched in his private parts to make him straighten his legs so they could be belted together. Crying, he was lifted on to the plane and flown out of the country. (Jacqui Smith has ordered an inquiry into widespread reports of violence during removals).

His mobile phone had been taken from him and he was given no chance to contact friends or lawyers, even though Home Office rules required that he should have 72 hours' notice of removal to give him a chance to make calls.

Judge Newman said he was satisfied that Bosco was telling the truth and that the actions of the Border Agency officers were "deliberately calculated to avoid any complication that could arise from Mr Bosco 's removal becoming publicly known."

Lawyers for the Home Secretary conceded in court that his removal was carried out illegally. But they argued that flying him back to the UK was pointless because the 38-year-old was bound to lose the fresh asylum claim he now wanted to make.

Rejecting their arguments, Judge Newman said: "I find it impossible to conclude, on the basis of the evidence as it now is [Bosco's situation on returning to Uganda], that there is not the real possibility that a judge might find that he is at risk if he is returned (to his homeland) by reason of his homosexuality."

As with the Ugandan lesbian Prozzy Kazooza, who was raped and tortured by the police and won asylum last year, this has now proved to be the case.

Bosco, who is a graduate and former bank manager, will now be able to return to the job he had held for seven years as a carer supporting vulnerable adults in the community in Southampton. His job has been held open by staff who had previously testified to his outstanding work.

In an email to the author Bosco said:

I was worried to death not knowing where my future will be other than death but now I can put a smile on my face.

Please I ask you kindly to pass on my sincere love and word of thank you everyone you know that supported me and prayed for me.

I will never say Britain is bad because I will include those good people helped me but Just Home office as a department they tortured me and can't understand why they had to do this to me when I obeyed all the rules.




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