UK: Lesbian asylum seekers due to be deported to Pakistan

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Campaigners say several female asylum seekers, some of whom are gay, face imminent deportation to Lahore in Pakistan.

A protest over their plight took place outside the Home Office in central London this afternoon.

It’s claimed one of the women, Fozia, a lesbian, was tortured by her own brothers when her sexuality was exposed in Pakistan.

Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in the country with custodial sentences of up to 10 years; much of the LGBT community is forced to live in the shadows.

An LGBT website was censored by authorities in the country last month. 

Along with urging the protection of asylum seekers fleeing homophobic persecution, campaigners have called on the UK Government to investigate allegations of abuse against female detainees carried out by staff at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

Movement for Justice (MFJ) claims five of the eight women facing deportation to Pakistan on Tuesday evening have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment from male officers at Yarl’s Wood.

MFJ’s Marvin Kibuuka said to “It’s an outrage that the Home Office is trying to deport women who have been witnesses of the sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood as part of their cover up operation. No women from Yarl’s Wood should be deported because they are all potential witnesses.

“There must be a full open public inquiry where Yarl’s Wood women are able to give evidence with a cast iron guarantee that there will be no reprisals.”

Last month, Serco, which runs the 400-bed centre near Clapham in Bedfordshire, announced an investigation into allegations of improper staff conduct after a 23-year-old Roma woman claimed she had sexual contact with male guards at the facility.

John Tolland, director at the centre, said: “Serco absolutely refutes the allegations made that there is an environment at Yarl’s Wood where sexual intimidation or inappropriate behaviour is in any way tolerated.

“We have strict procedures for dealing with any such complaints and they are always fully investigated.

“We expect the highest standards of behaviour from all our staff and any claims of misconduct are treated extremely seriously.

“When a complaint of sexually inappropriate behaviour between staff and a resident was brought to our attention in 2012 the matter was properly investigated.

“As a result three members of staff were dismissed.”