MP and Ugandan bishop speak out for gay asylum seeker

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A Liberal Democrat MP and a Ugandan bishop are calling for a gay asylum seeker to be given the right to stay in the UK.

Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, and Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo say that 33-year-old Robert Segwanyi will face harassment and possibly violence if he is sent home.

Uganda has strict laws against homosexuality and gay rights campaigners say that LGBT people in the country often suffer harassment and violence.

Mr Segwanyi, who is currently in Haslar Detention Centre, came to the UK in June 2010 after, he says, escaping prison in Uganda.

He applied for asylum shortly after arrival but was denied leave to stay in the UK and an immigration judge rejected his appeal. He is expected to be deported at 8pm this evening.

Mr Hancock has accused the UK Border Agency of making errors with the case and says a judge did not consider all the evidence.

He said: “As with all my constituents all I want is proper consideration of their case and the proper laws and regulations applied. It is very clear that they haven’t been properly applied in Mr Segwanyi’s case and I hope that his lawyers can now challenge this and get proper legal consideration.

“Amazingly and bizarrely the Home Office still say there is no persecution of gay men in Uganda, both now and when Mr Segwanyi was in Uganda when their own country report flatly contradicts this.

“Looking at the case overall, I have massive concerns about the case and I also believe that Mr Segwanyi’s case ‘stacks up’ and I don’t say either of these things lightly.”

Last year, the coalition government promised that no asylum seekers will be sent home if they are “at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution”.

Bishop Senyonjo said that the situation for LGBT people in Uganda is “dire and getting worse” and spoke of “witch-hunts” against people believed to be gay.

He said: “Any LGBT person returned to Uganda would face this deteriorating situation. Even if they try not to be public concerning their sexuality they will face questioning if they are unmarried, this is the nature of the “witch hunt”. It is near impossible for anyone to hide.

“As well they will undoubtedly face questioning at the airport and will likely face harassment and possibly violence from the police, as we have witnessed before. It is not safe to return anyone who is LGBT or perceived to be LGBT to Uganda.”

Those who have met Mr Segwanyi, including John Bosco Nyombi, a gay man who won asylum in the UK, say he is clearly gay and that his story of being harassed and burnt with molten plastic is credible.

Almost 3,500 people have signed a petition calling for his deportation to be halted.

His supporters hope a fresh appeal can be made today.