Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Austria deports African gay footballer

Austrian anti-fascist graffitti
By Paul Canning

Via Heinz Leitner in Vienna, LGBT Asylum News has learned that despite a mass campaign in his support (and of others) a Nigerian gay footballer Cletus B has been removed by Austrian authorities.

The Austrian government is a coalition with the Social Democrats forming the largest party with leader Werner Faymann as Chancellor. However in campaigning emails Leitner blamed the influence of Austria's strong far-right, which strengthened in their last elections, on the decision of the socialist-led government to deport Cletus.

Leitner wrote:
The Austrian coalition governments of the Social Democrats and the Christian party, in the past and in the present, were and are responsible for those horrible laws, concerning asylum seekers and foreign workforce in Austria,  in their efforts to gain votes doing their utmost in outdoing the far extreme right that is in parliamentary opposition. You get the impression the far right wing party and the tabloids are already members of the government. The majority of the Austrian gay community also seems to be more interested in events and fun than in showing solidarity to our persecuted, and tortured, and executed friends.
Der Standard columnist Irene Brickner told LGBT Asylum News:
The social background is a far right political atmosphere in Austria concerning asylum matters. Black men, and especially Nigerians and people from other West African states. Due to the fact that drug dealing is a problem amongst them, every Nigerian man is suspected by the police and other authorities to be a drug dealer: a very negative start for asylum applications - and an extreme example of ethnic profiling.

"away with them, at any price"

On 29 April, during the training of the anti-racist football team "FC Sans Papiers" ("without papers") a raid of 100 policemen took place. After the interrogation 14 players were released, one of the players and the trainer were kept in custody pending deportation.

Cletus, their trainer, is facing a death sentence in Nigeria due to his sexual orientation (Northern Nigeria has Sharia law). The 21 year old player has been living in Austria since he was 15 years old. He was 'outed' and well-known to be gay in the Nigerian community in Austria.

They were threatened to be deported the very same night. As a result a solidarity- demonstration at the detention centre Hernalser Gürtel, with around 300 to 400 participants, was organized quickly. When one of the arrested was recognised in a delivery van of the police, the car was blocked for about two hours. In the end the police broke up the blockade violently and took 42 people temporarily under arrest. The persons concerned were not deported that night, but transferred to the detention centre Rossauer Lände.

On the next day, 30 April, another demonstration of solidarity with those imprisoned by 250 people was held in front of Rossauer Lände. Another protest on the first of May was at the Marcus-Omofuma- Memorial.

About 200 people were gathering, when the police kettled them with the intention to prevent the start of the demonstration march and to sabotage the right to freedom of speech.

Nobody was arrested that day. But when a couple of people moved the protest to the detention centre Rossauer Lände to declare their solidarity with those imprisoned, a massive force of police showed up and took another seven people with them to prove their identities.

Despite the demonstrators' efforts, a Frontex (European Union agency) plane removed them to Nigeria 5 May. Allegedly it held 45 deportees from five EU countries and as many as 113 guards.

Leitner says that authorities removed Cletus B despite all legal avenues not being exhausted. Requests to reapply for asylum (as is his right) were simply ignored: Leitner and Cletus B's lawyer say that authorities refused to take Cletus B's homosexuality into account despite clear evidence of the persecution of gay people in Nigeria, in particular the existence of the death penalty under sharia law operating in the north of the country where Cletus was from.

In an appeal to judge Mag Höller Leitner wrote:
Although his request was "decisive thing" rejected for, but I have, however, in August 2009 an open deadline complaint brought in.

The Asylum Tribunal has also still not decided, nor granted the suspensive effect, so that the removal can be performed at any time.

In the complaint I have argued that the footballer Cletus is only recently, here in Austria, known for his homosexuality, so that it only after the completion of its previous asylum procedure to a wider public was aware.
It is therefore decisive thing, but a new issue no.

[Zwar wurde sein Antrag wegen „entschiedener Sache“ zurückgewiesen, dagegen habe ich jedoch im August 2009 in offener Frist Beschwerde erhoben.

Der Asylgerichtshof hat darüber bis heute nicht entschieden und auch nicht die aufschiebende Wirkung zuerkannt, sodaß die Abschiebung jederzeit vollzogen werden kann.

In der Beschwerde habe ich geltend gemacht, daß der Fußballer Cletus sich erst in jüngster Zeit, hier in Österreich, zu seiner Homosexualität bekannte, sodaß sie erst nach Abschluß seiner früheren Asylverfahren einer größeren Öffentlichkeit bekannt wurde.

Es liegt daher keine entschiedene Sache, sondern ein neuer Sachverhalt vor.]
The Austrian Green Party and others have said that legal procedures were not followed in the deportation and have demanded an inquiry from Interior Minister Maria Fekter. In an article for Der Standard Irene Brickner wrote that the suspicion is that the police operated under the basis of "away with them, at any price".


Irene Brickner has kindly provided the following clarification:
According to Michael Genner from the organisation "Asyl in Not", who took care about B's legal matters during his asylum application (I spoke to Genner today), B mentioned that he is homosexual after coming to Austria and asking for asylum in 2002. But he was too openminded, so he gave the judges (who carry out the extremely bureaucratic and in many ways hostile Austrian asylum laws) the possibility to say no to his asylum application as he said during interrogation that "his whole village" in Nigeria knew that he is gay.

After the finding was negative (and Genner came in touch with him), Genner went into appeal of first instance. Again the finding was negative. Genner complained against this decision, but such a complaint does in Austria since 2006 not anymore have the effect that a person can stay in the country before there is a decision. Boniface tried to make a new asylum application in the days before the deportation. I suppose he was in a panic but this application had absolutely no chance: This is the legal background of his deportation.
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