Student activist forced to justify sexuality in asylum case

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A member of the NUS Black Students’ Campaign Committee is to be brought before a hearing on his asylum in the UK, and has been asked to “prove” his sexuality.

Serigne Tacko Mbengue, an asylum seeker who was forced to flee his home country of Senegal, arrived in the UK hoping to finally find tolerance and acceptance for his ‘crime’ of being gay.

An appeal hearing against the UK Border Agency’s decision to deport an asylum seeker, who claims he is at risk of homophobic persecution in his home country, was delayed back in November. 

Despite seeking asylum to avoid harm in Senegal, where homosexual acts are illegal, Mr Mbengue was held in a detention centre for two years, and says he never received a full explanation for his detention.

The Home Office declined to comment on the matter of the hearing, during which it is said that among other things Tacko was to provide proof his LGBT credentials, meaning his sexuality is being called into question and he is being forced to qualify it.

Senegal specifically outlaws same-sex sexual acts, and regularly prosecutes men accused of homosexuality. Gay men face routine discrimination in society, and sending him back to Senegal could put him in direct risk of serious discrimination and persecution.

Since arriving in the UK, Mr Mbengue became invested deeply within communities here. He became involved with the National Union of students in January 2011, and was subsequently elected by his fellow LGBT students in the summer of 2012 as a representative on the committee of NUS’s black students’ campaign giving a voice for LGBT black students within the UK and further afield.

An active member of the LGBT student community, Tacko is responsible for setting up an LGBT group at his college. He is described as very successful after creating a workshop at the NUS Black Students’ Conference focusing on defending international students, many of whom face problems due to their sexuality.

Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer said: “Tacko is an inspiring Black LGBT activist who has spoken out against the terrible conditions that asylum seekers endure in the detention system.”

Mr Kiely also added that Tacko’s “case is a stark reminder of the need to challenge the injustices of racism and homophobia. Student leaders, LGBT, women, disabled and Black student activists will continue to show every support for Tacko.”

A Facebook event set up to assist Tacko’s fight describes this struggle as one not only for LGBT rights in the UK and Senegal, but also for making Britain a place where oppression is fought rather than being condoned or ignored.

Britain is supposed to be a place where the oppressed can find sanctuary and be leaders for the betterment of all, where rights are respected no matter where people are born, or where equality, dignity and respect has meaning.

NUS Black Students have planned a protest at the public hearing tomorrow, 9 January, at 9am at Roseberry Avenue, and there is a Facebook group for the event.

Twitter messages of support for the accused have also been sent using hashtag #TackoMustStay