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Monday, 8 August 2011

'Obviously gay' Ugandan asylum seeker faces removal by UK Wednesday

Robert with his partner in Uganda. He doesn't know where his partner is now.
By Paul Canning

New updates continue here.

Update, 15 August: Robert has new removal instructions for Thursday 18 August. His lawyer is preparing another possible claim.


Update, 11 August: pinknews.co.uk, LibDem Voice, ILGA, Portsmouth local newspaper The News and now widely circulating The Advocate in the US have reported on Robert's case.

Update, 10 August: Robert's removal has been "deferred" pending consideration of his fresh claim for asylum.

Updated to add: Mike Hancock MP has issued a strong statement expressing "grave concern" and citing issues with the case including:
"Continued old-fashioned attitudes by immigration judges and a system that does not allow for the extreme nervousness that LGBT people may have in admitting their sexuality to people in authority following their experiences."

A Ugandan asylum seeker described by those who have met him as 'obviously gay' faces removal this Wednesday after the acting head of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Jonathan Sedgwick, personally rejected an appeal by LiberalDemocrat Mike Hancock MP. A 'fresh claim' for asylum is to be put in today by his lawyer.

Sedgwick's letter reiterates what an immigration judge said regarding Robert Segwanyi last November. Judge Hembrough wrote that:
"Even if I am wrong regarding the Appellant's homosexuality I see no reason to depart from the [then] current country guidance" - this guidance being that "the evidence does not establish that in general there is persecution of homosexuality (sic) in Uganda".
This country guidance was changed in February and now reflects the actual situation for gays in Uganda.

In particular it points out that:
"Amnesty’s 2010 Report 'I Can’t Afford Justice' published on 6 April 2010 commented “…section 145 of the Penal Code Act has been and continues to be used by the police and other law enforcement officials to subject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda to arbitrary arrest and detention often resulting in torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” [10b] This comment is contrary to that made by UHRC at 19.04 and should be considered accordingly. [This means that this information should be prioritised over prior information.]"
Sedgwick's letter claims that Hancock's pointing to the murder of David Kato earlier this year as 'new evidence' is irrelevant as he claims that Segwanyi would "keep his sexual orientation secret for reasons other than fear of persecution in Uganda." This reiterates the judge's hedging of 'even if I am wrong and he is gay ...'

According to those who have met him, Robert is 'obviously gay'.

Ugandan refugee John Bosco met Segwanyi before he was in Haslar detention centre near Portsmouth. He says:
"When I met him face to face, it was obvious that Robert is gay. The way he was talking, the mannerism and mentioning some of Ugandan gay guys I from Uganda. Robert told me what he has been through and from my experience I knew it did happen to him as it happened to me when people in Uganda came to know about my sexuality."
Anne Dickinson of Haslar Visitor's Group said that they knew immediately that Robert was gay, before he told them, but they didn't want to say anything.

Says Bosco:
"Robert wanted to talk to them but he found it hard to talk about it in front of others listening. So he waited until one went to the kitchen and talked about it. Then when I met Robert I asked how he felt about it afterwards. He was scared to death thinking he has blown off his chance as he will never be allowed to go back to the drop-in as this has been happening where ever he mentions that he is gay. He was then shocked to hear that this time someone listened to him. Robert is so vulnerable as he finds it hard to express himself because of English language. He can speak English but not good enough to express his feelings."
Robert was imprisoned and tortured for homosexuality. On escaping prison in June 2010 he fled to the UK and applied for asylum a fortnight later. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) does not accept he is gay and a judge rejected his appeal claiming that there is no risk to gay people in Uganda.

Hancock's letter demanded that Robert be given enough time to put in for judicial review - because, he explained in some detail, previous judicial dismissal of Robert's case appeared to be unsafe.

In particular he pointed to immigration judge Hembrough's treatment of the evidence of Professor Cornelius Katona, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Emeritus professor of Psychiatry in the University of Kent, Honorary Professor in the Department of Mental Health Sciences at University College London and author of over 300 expert medical reports. (We detailed other problems with both judge Hembrough's as well as the UKBA's treatment of Robert.)

Hancock pointed to the judge's statement in his ruling that Prof. Katona did not consider Mr Segwani to be gay - yet Prof. Katona has said that this is "with respect, incorrect".

Hembrough said he had “considerable doubts as to whether” Segwanyi was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) – despite Prof. Katona saying that it would not even be possible for professional actors to fake PTSD symptoms in a way that Segwanyi did.

The treatment of Katona's evidence demands judicial review, Hancock says. But Sedgwick's letter rejects any need to reassess the judge's decision.

In total, Sedgwick backs the judge and rejects Hancock's assessment that the judge's findings about Segwanyi being interviewed in English, his PSTD and his homosexuality:
"Are at best based on somewhat prejudiced views and not in line with the evidence. Indeed if Mr Segwanyi had wanted to mislead the immigration authorities he would surely have acted in a different way."
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