Update, April 8: On 6 April 2011 Uche has received removal directions for a second time, having had his Fresh Claim refused. The judge refuses to accept his sexuality. This is despite the fact that his ex-boyfriend and other close friends are prepared to testify on his behalf that they know him to be gay. He is due to be removed on a chartered flight to Lagos on Wednesday 20 April 2011.
Since his lawyer, Hani Zubeidi, managed to get a judicial review in November 2010, Uche has had a difficult few months. He remains in detention, having had a bail application refused by a judge that has found unfavourably in a number of cases of gay defendants. The one thing he needs to prove, it seems that he can’t whilst in detention.
Although he has a conviction, he had served his time before being detained and has now been in detention for 18 months. The Guardian has recently reported on the indefinite detention and presumption of deportation of foreign nationals with a criminal conviction.
Charity, Medical Justice is sending a doctor to meet Uche and produce a report, based on a physical assessment of his scars. This will support his descriptions of events in Nigeria and we hope enable him to make a fresh claim for asylum. But he needs time for this to be arranged and the report to be written
As before, Uche just wants his voice to be heard. He is gay, all of his friends know him to be gay. Yet, he has been forced to live in an environment where he is afraid to admit his homosexuality and has no freedom. He would like the government to remember that he is a human being and deserves a second chance to live his life in peace, without threat of torture or worse in Nigeria, which is the reality he faces if deported (publicity on the internet following the publication of this appeal demonstrates violent homophobic attitudes in Nigeria).
Update, December 6: PinkPaper: Last Minute hope for asylum seeker
Update, December 5: Hani Zubeidi of Fadiga and Co today won an injunction stopping tomorrow morning's removal of Uche to Lagos.
Zubeidi is also the solicitor who won a reprieve for another gay Nigerian, Hope Nwachukwu.
On Friday, his supporters filed a fresh claim based on new witness statements and other evidence about his sexuality and the threats he would face in Nigeria.
Supporters have also been in touch with Uche's MP, Harriet Harman. Her office claims to have been in touch with Uche, however he has not received any correspondence from them.
Uche Nnabuife is a 33-year old Christian Nigerian national who has been detained at Haslar Immigration and Removal Centre, since November 2009. He has received removal directions for 6 December on flight KL1000 at 6:35am from Heathrow Terminal 4, continuing on KL587 at 11:20am to Lagos. He is gay and is afraid of being killed if he returns to Nigeria.
In 1990 he was discovered with another man and was strung up, badly beaten, burnt and abused leading to several weeks in hospital. He saved money to leave the country, working as a male prostitute, where the property that he was living with was attacked. Fearing for his life, Uche arrived in the UK in 2005 and his application for leave to remain has been rejected
Uche is a quiet, peace-loving Christian man, who enjoys spending time with his friends and playing pool. He would like the opportunity to live a normal life and to continue training as a plumber.
After the attack in his village and subsequent hospitalisation, his family disowned him. He managed to persuade his uncle that he was not gay and went to live with him in Lagos to work in his shop. He worked here for a period of about 5 years and got to know other men in the area. Here he met his first boyfriend. They were very careful, fearing they would be attacked.
His uncle began to insist that he should get married and brought a girl and her mother to tea to meet him. On informing his uncle that he could not marry this girl, his uncle’s attitude towards him changed and he stated that what the villagers had said about Uche must be true. Fearing violent retribution and/ or public disgrace, Uche moved out.
On the streets and desperate, he was advised to use an agent to leave the country. His boyfriend introduced to a man, who gave him work, as a male prostitute in order to raise enough money to leave the country. This took him 9 years and during this time the house that they were living and working in was attacked.
He arrived in the UK in 2005 and feels safe here, having become friends with other Nigerians who are gay. He is amazed how open people are able to be about their sexuality. He kept himself to himself fearing that if he contacted any authorities, he would end up back in Nigeria. He found out about asylum in 2009 and made an application, mentioning the fact that he is gay for the first time.
“I did not know about asylum or about groups such as the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, who I now speak to for support. If I had known, I would have contacted the authorities. I would like to help to advise other gay men in my position and to encourage them to come out as soon as possible. It has damaged my case, because I felt too embarrassed to discuss my sexuality.”
LGBT Asylum News Editor Paul Canning writes:
"Again we have a gay Nigerian faced with the Home Office making every effort to send him back to a potentially terrible fate. The system seems to be about removal numbers, not upholding the Refugee Convention."Uche had sexual relationships before being detained and his ex-boyfriend and two of his gay Nigerian friends submitted evidence to his appeal. His boyfriend has supplied photographs of them together. Because his ex-boyfriend was in France at the time of the appeal and had made an error in his letter, the court rejected all correspondence from any of his friends. They changed the location of the hearing at the last minute, which meant that 2 friends arrived in the wrong location and that he was not well supported.
“I am concerned that they have simply changed the line since the July Supreme Court decision from ‘go home and be discreet’ to ‘prove that you are gay’ in order to refuse asylum and to carry on removing gay people."
“The Stonewall report showed high levels of homophobia and ignorance in UK Border Agency and yet again we have a case showing that the government cannot rely on the Supreme Court decision to say they've met their promise that no-one like Uche would be removed to danger.”
If Uche is deported to Nigeria, he will be in grave danger. He is certain that his family and friends in Nigeria know that he is gay and Nigerian people hold strong views on gay people, believing them to be possessed by evil spirits.
- PinkPaper coverage of Uche: 'Gay Nigerian faces deportation danger'
1) Contact the Home Secretary
- Downloadable and editable sample letter on Google Docs
Secretary of State for the Home Office,
2 Marsham St London SW1 4DF
Fax: 020 7035 4745
(00 44 20 7035 4745 if you are faxing from outside UK)
2) Write to Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines
Peter Hartman, CEO
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
P.O. Box 7700
1117 ZL Schiphol
The Netherlands/ KLM
Communications Fax: +31 (0)20 648 80 92
Customer Service Email: http://bit.ly/gWr6Rk
Treatment of gay people in Nigeria
A 2009 Human Rights Report Nigeria: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment (2008 - August 2009) published by the UN Council of Human Rights states:
“Sources describe violence aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as regular (AI 2009) and "frequent" (HRW 26 Jan. 2009). EDGE, a Boston-based news site for the gay community which published an article about Nigerian homosexuals describes Nigeria as being noteworthy in the "virulence and violence [directed towards] gay men [and] lesbians" (EDGE 17 Apr. 2008). Activists say homosexuals in Nigeria sometimes face violence from their own family members (BBC 11 Mar. 2009; Edge 17 Apr. 2008).
EDGE reports that a man in Lagos was attacked and killed by a gang claiming "they were 'cleansing' Lagos of homosexuals" (EDGE 17 Apr. 2008).
As a signatory of the ECHR, the United Kingdom would not be fulfilling several of its international legal obligations if Uche is deported.
"To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is."Lord Hope, 7th July, 2010, reading the Supreme Court ruling on 'HT' (Cameroon) and 'J' (Iran).