Thursday, 9 June 2011

No problems for LGBT in Tanzania according to UK immigration judge

Update: 13 July: Eddy has permission to appeal. Judge Gill says it is "arguable" that prior judge had failed to properly consider evidence that (quote) "he is a gay".

The case of Edson 'Eddy' Cosmas, a gay Tanzanian asylum seeker has now gone from a UKBA decision:
'Stamp. Not gay. Fast track.' 
To an immigration judge decision:
'Call yourself a gay activist? You're rubbish at it. Stamp. Reject.'
To the latest rejection by another judge:
'Even if you are a ho-mo-sex-ual, Tanzania is perfectly safe. Stamp. Reject.'
Anyone might be led to thinking that the UK asylum system is all about finding a way to reject and remove a gay asylum seeker ... by any means necessary ...

This latest rejection of an appeal is based on the UK Border Agency (UKBA)'s initial trawl across the interwebs to find anything - anything - which could paint Tanzania as safe for the gays.

S/he Border Agent discovered a Tanzanian Bishop, Godfrey Mhogolo, who doesn't want gays burned at the stake and makes note that there are two LGBT organisations in Tanzania, and then there's an article which says, s/he writes:
"Most revealingly that there is a "quiet but vivid LGBT community in Darussalem"."
I say discover because the agent writes that they have trawled and found stuff, sorry, "objective evidence", which they say proves safety for the gays in Tanzania:
"The objective evidence produced above is totally inconsistent with your claim that the society at large in Tanzania is homophobic and you will be persecuted there for being a gay man," the agent writes.
What s/he obviously does not do is include anything s/he might find which contradicts this task of suggesting inconsistency and therefore no 'credibility' to the asylum claim.

Last year the website Gay Middle East was amazed to discover an article of theirs on Syria being quoted out of context in an gay asylum case.

Says Editor Dan Littauer:
"A paragraph had been lifted entirely out of context. It was clearly done in order to present Syria as somewhere where someone could live safely as gay if they were discrete. If you had read the entire article you would have understood that this was clearly not what the article conveyed. I was deeply shocked at the deliberate deceptiveness of such selective misquoting." 
A UK Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) report 'Refugee Roulette' published in January 2010 noted that in the Iranian country-of-origin (COI) information made available for UKBA workers to judge claims there was a paragraph that talked about “a park in Tehran where homosexuals can meet”. This paragraph was then regularly relied upon, IAS said, to refuse a claim for protection on the basis that the gay applicant can exist ‘discretely’ in Iran. However this very same park was covered in a 2007 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) report. Meeting other gays in this park is dangerous, CBC was told. One gay Iranian said on camera it was “suicidal”.

As we pointed out earlier, the new guidance on LGBT asylum cases for UKBA makes clear that this is not how country of origin information should be treated. No more quoting out of context and no more presenting evidence as "objective" when it clearly isn't. All part of the government's political promise on LGBT asylum and therefore, you would think, part of a clear, top-down message to the rank-and-file to treat these cases differently - more fairly - from how they'd been treated before. One would assume that this point was reinforced in the compulsory day long training session which the Border Agent judging Eddy went through earlier this year.

What a five minute trawl by myself or anyone else would find is, in fact, plenty of other evidence which says that Tanzania is not a safe place for the gays, that gay people are arrested (under various laws, such as vagrancy), that they suffer violence, blackmail and extortion and discrimination. The very existence of only two organisations (and only a couple are listed in the directory of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA) compared to dozens in Uganda and Kenya would suggest in and of itself that the community there is weak. And obviously if the existence of gay organisations meant safety then Uganda would be safe ... !

So I tracked down gay Tanzanians and asked them - 'Is Tanzania safe for LGBT?'

The response from Stay Awake Network Activities (SANA) was in broken English, which is also relevant to this case because several of the problems with points used by the agent to attack Eddy's 'credibility' lie in language (as well as cultural) misunderstandings, as the Nigerian Rev. Jide Macauley pointed out in my last post on this case.

SANA say:
The Public or the society is the one which thinks it has upper hand on Discriminating and stigmatising Gays. And such Homophobia is huge to the extend that some Gays are bitten by mobs or Gay haters and it's not reported. Gay fear to go and report to the police since they do not think they have grounds. 
In Family is worse since you either get married so as to please your family or shun or being an outcast to you family. And most of the Gays are having that problem once you have been discovered that your a Gay there choices to be made if your DEPENDENT, you repent so as stay with your family and have a girlfriend on you side or leave and stay on the streets. 
Even at time your relatives threats you with the Knife or abusive words just because your Gay.
All the above has not been reported because it is known as a FAMILY PROBLEM if it cannot be solved within the perimeter of the household the Family kicks you out of the family because you bring SHAME to them.
You might ask where are the Legal Human Right centres or Activist who are there to defend the MARPs [Most At Risk of HIV/Aids Populations]? They are there but they fear of loosing their status in social settings and also at work place they might loose they job. As well by defending such LGBTI and they only support the LGBTI networks but they cannot defend them since they dont have the COURAGE to represent us though as CODE OF ETHICS OF LAW PROFESSION BINDS EACH ADVOCATE ACCOUNTABLE TO HIS CLIENT and our Constitution also gives the power and the right to be Represented but OUR SOCIAL NORMS RULES every things.
In our country which is Tanzania we had few number of man who has been killed. 
There was this man who had a sex change, it was said he was raped and left on the beach to die when he was taken to the national hospital the nurses and doctors were surprised by the man sex change. Instead of treat the patient, later he was referred to another Hospital that is where death took him. The man lost medical attintions which was very crucial. 
The other Man went with his lover (man) to the beach in the middle of the night to have sex, but the dogs caught the man and bitten him to death and the owner saw the incidents and other who normaly go there at the beach so the incidents but they didnt help because they say, 'he was gay, he deserve to die'. 
This is recent case where by the man hanged himself because of the constant reminder by his family members that he was gay, he kept on denying his sexal status but the family didnt believe him, the man had a wife and kid. He tried to convince his family that he was straight but there was nothing he could do but to hung himself and he left a note that.'I am not a gay and God is my witness'. 
We dont know for sure if the man who hanged himself was realy a gay or not. If he was may be he was in the closet and he was in denial of his identity and fear of the public shame or reject since he had a family and a name to defend..Sso his sexual status was at hand. We dont know but if there was a counselling services which was near by or a friend to listen to him he could have talked to the friend and may be he could not have killed himself of public threat and fear. 
Above stories shows clearly that the public can be a motivating factor of pursuing the doer to commit the final act which is death, such pressure by the public is very real and visible, therefore there is a need to clear the mind of the public and show them that LGBTI are part of the community and family etc 
The situtation of Gays in Tanzania as other countries may say its "SAFE" but they have not tried to define how SAFE is SAFE? to different circumstance or settings. It could be safe just work down the street swing my hips and flirt but it depends on which side of the area are doing such acts. 
The Government is in denial that GAYS do exist but they Know we do exist and we are their Neighbors or relatives etc. The Denial is there and it is huge. 
The Penal Code Cap 16. which is the Criminal Law in Tanzania, has penalized Homosexuality. This also give power to the public to condemned Gays and make their own Judgments towards us.

One thing is who is better can tell these stories other than ourselves. For that we will be collecting incidents , events and life of LGBTI's in Tanzania. 
We feel the need to tell our side of the story to be heard by the multitude.
Last year ILGA released a report 'Tanzania: Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions of Gay and Lesbian Activists.' It's available on the interwebs. For viewing by anyone, including judges and UK Border Agents.

Eddy remains in detention and it is hoped that a skillful lawyer or barrister will, perhaps at the judicial review stage, convince someone in charge to let him out and grant him the asylum which he deserves under the Refugee Convention.

He is gay. Twelve witness statements, including from ex-lovers plus photos from a NUS LGBT conference say so - unless you think the convinced witnesses, including people with some status, are all dupes and the photos do not prove he's gay and they're staged. Perhaps Eddy not being 'obvious' - i.e. flaming - threw those saying he's not gay?

It is hoped that his MP will become engaged and also that the media might finally pay attention to his case. Unfortunately Eddy is not Ugandan, so media is, it would seem, far less interested.

As I have written before, this is a textbook case of 'how not to treat a gay asylum claim'. Perhaps if UKBA repeats their staff training exercise they might utilise it for that very purpose?

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