UK: Lesbian asylum seeker due to be deported to Gambia this evening

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Campaign group Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) has accused the UK Border Agency (UKBA) of trying to deport a lesbian asylum seeker, who it claims is at risk of homophobic persecution, to Gambia.

Named as “Awa”, she is due to be deported today (Wednesday) 3 July at 6:10pm from Heathrow Airport.

The group said: “Awa is a lesbian from the Gambia who has been in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for the past three weeks. Despite having gathered evidence for a fresh claim, including several statements from friends who knew her in the Gambia, the Home Office plans to deport her to the Gambia this week.

“Awa faces certain persecution and the likelihood of rape, forced marriage, torture and imprisonment in the Gambia; she will have to live in hiding to survive, as other lesbians have had to when sent back by the Home Office.”

The Home Office and the UK Border Agency have always denied claims that it deports LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where they are at risk of homophobic persecution.

The Home Office says it does not comment on individual cases.

Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant has robustly defended the Home Office and the UK Border Agency from claims that LGBT asylum seekers have been deported by officials in recent years.

Speaking to, the Labour MP said: “My experience thus far is that I have not known a decision [to] go in the wrong direction in the end.”

He also said: “In all asylum cases we are trying to do two things: protect the vulnerable and protect the British taxpayer. Because there was certainly in the late 1990s a significant number of people who were using the asylum system as an alternative way of being an economic migrant – and that’s not what asylum is there for”.

In February 2012 Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh said gay rights were a “great mistake” for Africa and that “human beings of the same sex cannot marry or date”.

In 2008, he was strongly criticised by EU officials after he vowed to introduce laws stricter than those in Iran, where gay acts between men are punishable by death.

The president retracted a threat to decapitate gay people in Gambia, but said they would be driven out of their homes.

Same-sex activity in the country is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.