By Tris Reid-Smith
A Nigerian who claims he is gay and will be killed if he is forced to return home is due to be deported from Britain on 6 December.
Uche Nnabuife, 33, [pictured, right, with friend] says he has previously been attacked in Nigeria and fled to Britain fearing his own uncle was going to kill him. But now the Home Office refuses to accept he is gay and are about to deport him.
Nnabuife told PinkPaper.com he discovered his sexuality when he was 12 but trouble started two years later when he was discovered having sex with a schoolmate.
“We used to go to the same school. I fancied him and thought he felt the same way. One day I went to his house and we were playing and ended up having sex and his older brother walked in and was shouting we had committed an atrocity.”
The brother and a group of neighbours dragged Nnabuife first to his own house and then the local police station in a frenzied attack, beating and burning him.
“They dragged me to the local police station. The police ask what had happened and they said I had an evil spirit. I was hit on the back of my neck and that’s when I lost consciousness. I woke up in hospital, I don’t know how I got there.”
Nnabuife fled to Nigeria’s capital, Lagos, where he worked in his uncle’s shop. He met his first boyfriend, CJ, and started discovering the underground gay scene there.
“He [CJ] took me to meet gay people in Lagos. It was very secretive. I had to be very careful.”
But his uncle kept encouraging him to get married to a woman. When he refused, his uncle said the stories about him in the village were true and turned on him. CJ took him to stay with a man called Charles and Nnabuife became a rent-boy to survive. With his uncle searching for him, apparently intent on killing him, he fled to Britain, travelling via the Netherlands.
Once in London he lived in a shared flat but others in the flat were involved with cannabis. Nnabuife was eventually arrested and charged with possession with intent to supply and found guilty, although he protests his innocence.
Although he arrived in 2005, Nnabuife told PinkPaper.com he didn’t understand the asylum system and so didn’t make an application until 2009. Meanwhile, his supporters say, he kept himself to himself, fearing the authorities would send him back home if he contacted them.
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Nigeria and gay sex is illegal. A UN Council of Human Rights report says that violence against gays is “frequent” and sometimes comes from family members.
PinkPaper.com has spoken to friends who insist Nnabuife is gay, has had sexual relationships and boyfriends in the UK and has gone to gay clubs in London. However the Home Office doubt his story because he entered the country using false documents, didn’t ask for asylum straight away and because of his criminal convictions.
The Home Office says it was only at the time of his last appeal, which was mid May, that he stated he was gay. This was around the time the government announced that it would not remove LGB people when they face persecution in their country of origin.
David Wood, Strategic Director for Criminality and Detention Group, said: “In this case both the UK Border Agency and the courts have found that Mr Nnabuife is not in need of protection. In his determination, the Judge found that ‘we find his claims to be homosexual are entirely lacking in credibility’ and that ‘he is a consummate conman, prone to faking his identity when it suits him, and well versed in padding out an untrue story’.”
The asylum judge also said in his determination in Nnabuife’s case: “...we are not satisfied that the appellant is homosexual, has been suspected of being so in Nigeria, ill-treated as a result or fled Nigeria in 2005 in order to escape persecution. We find that in addition to being involved in possessing two kilos of cannabis with intent to supply, demonstrating that he is a man of criminal propensities, he has misrepresented his immigration history, used false documents in the false identity, made unmeritorious applications in a false identity and made a claim for asylum once subject to deportation action solely to avoid removal as opposed to being in genuine fear of persecution or mistreatment in Nigeria.”
And the Home Office told PinkPaper.com it was committed to protecting genuine LGBT people fleeing persecution.
Despite the LGBT Asylum News Editor Paul Canning says the asylum system is all about removal numbers, rather than protection. He says officials have simply moved the goalposts after the UK Supreme Court made it harder to deport LGBT people.
Canning said: “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 carry on removing gay people.”
Nnabuife’s supporters also say his asylum case was unfair as the location was changed, meaning vital witnesses weren’t present. And they claim he has suffered from having only patchy legal advice.
They now say that having someone respond to this article may be Nnabuife’s last hope.