Update 17 November: Unfortunately we learned today that Sarah was removed to Lagos last night. It was the first attempt at removal. This was despite a judicial review being submitted yesterday and despite her MPs representations. Sarah has been in touch with her supporters today and it is hoped that a way can be found to support and protect her in a hostile place.
Sarah is a 27-year-old Christian Nigerian national who is currently detained at Yarl’s Wood, where she has been held since August 2010 as part of fast track. She is a lesbian and fears that she will be killed upon her return to Nigeria.
In 2002 after her uncle discovered her with a girlfriend, Sarah was raped and threatened with genital mutilation. Sarah arrived in the UK in 2004 and her applications for leave to remain have failed again and again. She was detained this year for overstaying and she risks removal at any moment.
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In 2004, the Nigerian family whose children she was looking after asked Sarah to accompany them to the UK. She was led to believe that she would go there to study and that they would act as her guardians.
Her passport and travel documents were kept by the family and she was promised that once in the UK they would help her begin school, a promise that never came to fruition. Instead she continued to look after the family's children, although she was never paid.
In 2006 her employer discovered her with her then girlfriend and kicked her out of the house. Sarah has since been effectively forced into an engagement by her church, which she then broke off.
Sarah’s applications for leave to remain, as well as her appeals, have been consistently denied. In August of this year, she was taken to detention for overstaying after calling the police for a friend following a domestic quarrel.
If Sarah is returned to Nigeria, her life will be in grave danger. A 2008 Human Rights Report: Nigeria, by US Department of States records that, “Homosexuality is illegal under federal law; homosexual practices are punishable by prison sentences of up to 14 years.”
On top of this, vigilante violence against LGBT people is extremely frequent. The vast majority of Nigerian residents (97% according to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project) believe that homosexuality should be rejected by society. This is clearly not a safe environment to be forced to return to.
As a signatory of the ECHR, the United Kingdom would not be fulfilling several of its international legal obligations if Sarah is deported. Sarah desperately needs the humanitarian protection which the UK must now supply.
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Rt. Hon Theresa May, MPEmails:
Secretary of State for the Home Office,
2 Marsham St
London SW1 4DF
Fax: 020 7035 4745