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Thursday, 19 August 2010

UK asylum win for bisexual Ghanaian

By Paul Canning

The bisexual Ghanaian asylum seeker Baffour Obeng has been released from detention on the order of an Immigration Tribunal judge. According to the journalist Simon Lewis, who has been helping him, "the judge at the tribunal indicated that [his asylum] claim would be successful but Baffour is still awaiting official confirmation."

Lewis said that the judge cited the July Supreme Court decision which said that LGBT asylum seekers could no longer be told to 'go home and be discreet'. In previously ordering his removal using the 'discretion' argument the Home Office had admitted that there would be "no protection available [from authorities] if you were to experience problems on account of your sexuality."

Obeng has been in detention for six months. In June he had no solicitor and a removal flight was booked for June 13. But a campaign was started, the Home Secretary's office was flooded with faxes and emails, a solicitor found, the flight was canceled, and Baffour was told by the Home Office that his case would be "substantively re-considered".

Baffour traveled to Europe in 2005 with his father, who has Dutch citizenship, both escaping a particularly violent inter-family chieftainship dispute which claimed the lives of four people.

For the first time, in Europe Baffour was able to be open about his sexuality, and began a relationship with another man. In Ghana, this would have been extremely dangerous, as well as being illegal. However, his coming out also led his father and family to abandon him. Baffour thinks his father has returned to Ghana, but is unable to contact any of his family any more - they will not speak to him.

With no access to documentation of his father's European citizenship, which would have allowed Baffour the right to stay in the UK, he was placed in a detention centre and faced forced removal from the UK. This terrified him as friends in Ghana warned him that his "secret" is out, and that it would be very dangerous to return.

Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana and the local LGBT community operates at least one safe house to protect people from attacks. Blackmail and extortion is widespread. The US Department of State human rights report, published March 2010, says:
LGBT persons face widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison are often subjected to sexual and other physical abuse. The law makes consenting homosexual acts a misdemeanor, and strong sociocultural beliefs discriminate against and stigmatize same gender sex.
A prominent heterosexual supporter of LGBT in Ghana, Nana Oye Lithur, recently was not appointed to represent Ghana on the African Union's Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), it is thought because of her support for LGBT.

Baffour told NCADC:
Without your help they would have send me already. Thank you so much to all the people who support me. It's rough inside, but it helps to know people are campaigning. Now please help others in this situation, there are too many needing help.

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