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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Action alert: Gay Nigerian threatened with removal by UKBA

Flag of NigeriaImage via Wikipedia 
Hope Nwachukwu is gay and faces persecution if he is returned to Nigeria. He has already suffered years of attacks and torture by fellow citizens who hold strong views on practicing gay men.

Hope arrived in the UK at the end of 2009 to try and escape his persecutors but since then he has spent six months in detention - where he has suffered attacks by fellow Nigerians who see he is gay. For Hope, the thought of returning to life in Nigeria is terrifying but the UK Border Agency insists that he is not gay.

Update 29 October

Hope has been released from detention. This is a major victory for the campaign - but we still need your help.

See how you can help at the Action Alert.

Update 27 October:

Hope's lawyer won at the High Court judicial review of his fresh claim. This was at the last minute as Hope was due had been prepared to be removed.

See how you can help at the bottom of this post

Update 26 October:

Hope Nwachukwu has new removal directions for October 27. A fresh submission was made October 22.

Hope's case has been discussed on three Nigerian discussion boards. Although most commentators believe he is lying, "because 99% of Nigerians are liars" as one commentator put it, one commentator on the Nairaland Board says:
All UK Govt needs to do is to look at some of the comments on that bisi alami thread, and this nwachukwu dude gets to stay
That thread is 'Gay Nigerian Activist Bisi Alimi Shares His Compelling Story' about the first out gay Nigerian to be interviewed on TV - and the thread contains numerous threats to Alimi's life.
I swear i will kill any gay arround me, infact, not my straight killing, but by poisoning because i know GOD will reward me for killing them silently
As well as the evidence from these discussion boards, both pinknews and this website have submitted evidence that news stories about Hope have been viewed in Nigeria, potentially posing a specific threat to him.

His Milton Keynes MP, Mark Lancaster, says he has made representations to the Home Office.

Hope put in a transfer request from Colnbrook detention centre because of suffering harassment and violence against him as other detainees perceived him as gay - even though he is not 'out'. Similarly Hope was previously harassed by neighbours in Milton Keynes because they either discovered or thought he was gay.

The Ugandan gay former asylum seeker John Bosco, whose return from having to live underground in Kampala after being removed by the Home Office was ordered by a judge in a unique case last year, is supporting Hope and said Hope has rung him in tears because of how fellow Nigerians in Colnbrook have been treating him. He says that Hope has been "spotted as not a 'man' because of how he walks, talks and even how he crosses his legs". Apart from calling him the Nigerian language names for gay they have attacked him, according to Bosco. "They don't want to be near him," Bosco added.

A report last year by Refugee Support, although focused on lesbians, showed the sort of violence, including sexual violence, often faced by LGBT asylum-seeking detainees.

Anne Dickinson, Coordinator of Haslar Visitors Group, was has been supporting Hope, said:
“I visited Hope when he was in Haslar IRC. He told me he had moved several times in Nigeria but each time was always beset upon by locals. Physically, he is tall and has certain sort of elegance. As soon as you speak to him his vulnerability is very evident."

"Since being transferred to Colnbrook IRC he has phoned me frequently – sometimes several times in a day, either on the edge of panic or in tears. He is afraid of the men there in detention, and in complete panic at the idea of being returned. He is living on a very thin knife edge. I fear for his life if returned and his well being if detained here."
Hope's solicitor Hani Zubeidi said:
"My client expressed serious concerns towards the harassment he was receiving from other inmates simply on account of his sexuality. Following a written request for him to be relocated to another detention centre, he was served with a removal notice, advising him that an injunction restraining his removal will be required for removal not to proceed. Needless to say he remains at the same detention centre. In light of of the failure to disclose his sexuality previously his claim was deemed not to be credible by the Home Office and the Court who determined his case without representation and under the fast track determination procedure."

"My client has now obtained evidence from credible witnesses attesting towards his sexuality together with evidence of his media campaign being seen in Nigeria. Despite the on going enquiry towards the discrimination he has faced during his detention, he now faces removal tomorrow night to Nigeria. A country which the Court acknowledged [as unsafe] in dismissing his case."

"Yet the background material before me in relation to homosexuality in Nigeria is clear that many individuals who are identified as gay have serious problems, there are frequent assaults, there have been serious attempts to change legislation regarding the lawfulness of gay relationships, and there is in many instances inadequate police protection."

"The Home Office have confirmed that his further representations are under consideration and a decision is expected shortly. We hope that costly Court proceedings will not be required, seeking an injunction to prevent his removal under these circumstances."
Update 29 September:

The removal failed and Hope is now in Colnbrook detention centre. Help is still needed, see Home Office contact details below.

Update 28 September:

Hope Nwachukwu is 33 years old and is currently being detained at Harmondsworth Detention Centre.
Hope has removal directions to Lagos, Nigeria for the 28 September 2010. It is because of the immediate and powerful response of campaigners that his last removal directions, on the 16 September, were canceled in order for him to have time to find a solicitor. It was also with the help of campaigners that Hope has finally succeeded in finding a solicitor.

Hope was being helped by a solicitor that went into administration. The Home Office then decided on his case and gave him Removal Directions despite the fact that he had no representation. He has only just found a new solicitor who is working on preparing his case. But the solicitor needs more time and the Home Office has again given him removal directions.

Hope is entitled to a fair trial. Join his campaigners in stopping Hope's removal! (See Home Office contact details below).

Update 17 September:

Hope's local MP, the Conservative Iain Stewart, did intervene. He released a statement saying:
"I was made aware of Hope’s case this afternoon and was concerned about the reports that he would face severe persecution if returned to Nigeria. While I am not in possession of the full details of his case, I am pleased that his immediate deportation has been halted and that the Home Office will make further enquiries. I will continue to keep an interest in this matter to ensure that Hope is given a fair hearing and that concerns about persecution are fully investigated.”
pinknews.co.uk has published a story about Hope. It includes this quote from LGBT Asylum News Editor Paul Canning :
"Whilst it is fantastic news that Hope has a second chance thanks to Mr Stewart's intervention, it is worrying that his case went this far. In particular that his sexuality was disbelieved just because he is not in a relationship.
"I am concerned that [the UK Border Agency] has changed the line used to refuse asylum and to remove people since the Supreme Court decision from 'go home and be discreet' to 'prove that you are gay'.
"I am aware of a number of others who should have our protection who are still in detention because their sexuality is not believed or for other reasons. The Stonewall report showed high levels of homophobia and ignorance in UK Border Agency and this case shows that the Home Office cannot rely on the Supreme Court decision to tackle that."
This pinknews story has been discussed on the Nairaland (Nigerian) discussion board.

Update 15 September:

Hope's removal flight for today has been suspended. this does NOT mean he is safe so plase still take action and contact the Home Office.

Hope Nwachukwu is 33 years old and is currently being detained at Harmondsworth Detention Centre.
Hope has removal directions to Lagos, Nigeria for the 16 September 2010 on Plueline Airlines flight PVT009 at 21.40. Hope is gay and faces persecution if he is returned to Nigeria. He has already suffered years of attacks and torture by fellow citizens who held strong views on practicing gay men. Hope arrived in the UK at the end of 2009 to try and escape his persecutors but since then he has spent six months in detention. The thought of returning to life in Nigeria is terrifying. Hope’s campaign committee is trying to gain support to stop his flight so Hope has time to find a solicitor to represent him.

Hope and his two sisters were adopted by a family friend. From an early age he was told by his adopted father that his biological father was bi-sexual. He was told the way his father lived was wrong and that he was killed for it. Hopes says that the man that adopted him was not a kind man, and didn’t treat him well. Hope was verbally abused and not allowed to attend school. He was told he was just like his father and would end up the same way.

As Hope got older he realised that he was gay, He entered into a relationship with a man and was kicked out of home. Word spread that he was gay and he was soon being harassed and attacked by local gangs. Hope says they did many bad things to him. As well as regular beatings Hope was forced to drink urine and made to perform sexual acts with inanimate objects including holes in brick walls. He was hounded out of his home town; from the threat of arrest or being killed if he did not leave.

He moved to a place named Sasa. He arranged for his sisters to come and join him so they could be together again. His sisters came but they were not allowed to live peacefully for long. Hope says he was told he behaved strangely and soon a new gang was attacking him. One night he was stabbed with a nail. Things got worse when the gang came to his house and tied him up and made him watch while they raped his sisters.
They said it was to show him how real men behave. After this they took him to the bush and tied him to a tree and said that they were going to ritually sacrifice him. At this point they left him alone with one gang member who took pity on him and allowed him to escape.

He was able to get help from a family friend in another town. The friend said there was no life left for him in Nigeria and made arrangements to get him a visa and a flight to the UK. He was told in the UK he would be able to start a new life. The family friend also arranged for somewhere for him to stay in Milton Keynes, when he arrived. Hope says “the man who I stayed with gave me no guidance on what to do, he was eager to get me out of his house as he said he did not tolerate people like me”. The man became more and more abusive towards Hope, so Hope was forced to find a job and move out. Hope worked in a warehouse and followed the only advice he had been given since coming to the UK which was keep yourself to yourself otherwise you will end up back in Nigeria.
“No one told me to claim asylum, I had no idea or I would have gone straight to immigration”
In April 2010 the police came to his place of work and found he was using false ID to work. They decided not to charge him but called immigration and Hope was detained. Since being in detention Hope says he has suffered from verbal and physical abuse from his fellow detainees for being gay.

Hope says that if he was returned to Nigeria he could not survive. He says the way he was treated there was “really barbaric”. He believes the same thing would happen again. He also adds that the law is against him too.

During his time in the UK Hope has lived a quiet life keeping himself to himself. Consequently he has not been in a relationship. This fact has lead to the Home Office claiming his case has little credibility. He has been refused asylum twice. Hope needs time to find a solicitor and get further evidence together to prove the trauma he has been through.

What can you do to help?

Please write to the Home Secretary
Please join the campaign to save Hope from certain persecution. Write to the Home Secretary and express your alarm that Hope has received removal directions and ask for his removal to be canceled.
Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department,
2 Marsham St
London SW1 4DF
Fax: 020 7035 4745
Email:
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