Wednesday 17 August 2011

UK denies leading Ugandan LGBT activist a visa

By Paul Canning

Update, 22 August: Kasha was today granted a visa to visit Northern Ireland. When reapplying in Kampala she reports it being granted extremely quickly.

We understand that there has been significant lobbying regarding the previous visa denial, in particular of the UK Foreign Office.

In addition to opening the Pride Festival in Derry on Saturday, Kasha will also give a speech to Amnesty International in Belfast on Thursday. 13 August she gave an extremely well received speech to Amnesty's International Council meeting in Geneva (see video of that speech).


The British government has denied a visa to Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesra, a leading LGBT activist in Uganda and the 2011 winner of the prestigious Martin Ennals award for Human Rights.

She had been invited to open Foyle Pride in Derry, Northern Ireland, 24 August.

According to Foyle Pride she:
"was refused entry into the UK over concerns over her financial status at home in Uganda, a query which has never arisen before, making the UK the only country in her international tour to deny this inspirational character entry."
Kasha said:
"It's a pity that they would think that I am interested in staying in the UK. I have a mission unaccomplished and that is why I am still in Uganda."
UPDATE: A UKBA spokesperson provided the following statement:
"Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits and in accordance with the immigration rules”. 
"The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules. This may include providing evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit."

"Our rules are firm but fair and where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered."
UPDATE: We asked the Home Office (who lead on foreign policy implications of visa decisions according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office):
Is the Home Office concerned on how the denial of this visa will be perceived internationally as undermining the government's expressed support for LGBT rights in countries such as Uganda? Support which was underlined by the Prime Minister in June?

Given that she has traveled to numerous countries and returned to Uganda to continue her work there, why would the UK believe that she would abandon this and remain in the UK as opposed to any of these other countries?
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said:
"The UK’s reputation for supporting those seeking protection on the grounds of sexual orientation is not in doubt.

"In June 2010, the Government published ‘Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality’ which outlined commitments to advance equality for LGB&T people including on asylum and to use the UK’s relationship with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights abroad.

"This includes a commitment to proactively question countries who retain homophobic legislation.  However, the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules.

"This may include providing evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit. We make visa decisions on a case by case basis according to the immigration rules."

Nabagesera is a prominent and visible lesbian activist in Uganda. In May she debated the lead author of the 'kill gays' bill, MP David Bahati on Voice of America television. She has faced slander and death threats and says she has to move from house-to-house as a result.

She spoke last weekend at an international meeting of Amnesty International, giving a speech which impressed those who heard it, including Amnesty Head Salil Shetty. Previously she had attended Pride in Rome and has traveled extensively internationally to give speeches about the situation in Uganda.

Last month the offices of the group she leads, Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), was burgled in what many saw as a suspicious way. This did not stop the launch of a major anti-hate campaign last week in Uganda, which FARUG and Nabagesera led.

Sha Gillespie, chairperson of Foyle Pride, said:
"As a city still evolving and dealing with the legacy of the past, Kasha’s message and story is of particular importance and relevance and inspirational for our wider community to hear."
"Foyle Pride has invested heavily in bringing Kasha to Derry despite having a very limited budget and relying on donations and the support of local businesses, money and resources that will now be lost."

"I can’t understand why the UK is the only country to deny her entry and deny the opportunity for the people of Derry and Northern Ireland as a whole the chance to hear this inspirational woman speak. We intend to publish an online petition on our facebook page and urge everyone to go and register their disgust. Gay Rights have come a long way in this country but actions like this demonstrate how far they need to come. Despite this setback, I and the rest of the Foyle Pride committee remain committed to putting on a fantastic festival and welcome everyone to attend."
Last year saw the first gay pride parade on the streets of Derry and proved to be a great success with over 5000 people taking part in the parade and 6400 in the week long festival.


  1. There is a tendency towards "hysterical" reaction whenever news such as this is received or announced.

    However, as the UKBA spokesperson has stated, there are requirements expressly provided for by the Immigration Rules, which every applicant must satisfy. This is not a matter where the Entry Clearance Officer at the UK Diplomatic Mission has a discretion to grant the visa despite the fact that the applicant has failed to satisfy the requirements of the Rules.

    The fame or public profile of the individual is usually not a factor that is taken into consideration in these cases. A few years ago a Dutch MP was refused entry into the UK at the airport. World famous American artistes have been denied entry into various European countries at various times.

    The bottom line is that when people make applications for visas, they should be careful to ensure that all of the requirements of the Immigration Rules are met.

  2. The problem is that she would have given the same information where ever she applied for a visa, but only the UK doesn't find it satisfactory and fails to take into account who she is. Otherwise why even suggest that she might want to stay here, over stay her visa etc? No where else considers that she doesn't 'satisfy the rules' - surely that suggests that the rules are the problem and not Kasha!

    This is nothing like the Geert Wilders case, this is the blind application of rules which then creates a diplomatic incident.


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