Former prisons minister: It’s ‘disgraceful’ how the UK Border Agency has handled LGBT asylum cases over the years

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Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and Labour MP Pamela Nash have strongly criticised the Home Office over its handling of LGBT asylum cases.

Yesterday, during a House of Commons debate on how the UK should promote LGBT rights in Uganda, Ms Nash commented on the case of a lesbian asylum seeker who was deported to Uganda last year.

Jackie Nanyonjo died in the country after months of declining health.

She had been forced into hiding following her return to Uganda.

Labour MP Pamela Nash, who also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, told Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire: “I want to raise the case of Jackie Nanyonjo, who sought asylum here in the UK as a Ugandan lesbian. She was deported after the UK Border Agency reportedly told her there was not enough evidence to prove she was gay.

“It has been reported that during her removal from the UK in January last year she sustained injuries when struggling with four Reliance guards escorting her on a flight to Uganda on behalf of the UKBA. When she was handed over to the Ugandan authorities upon arrival at Entebbe airport, she was detained for hours without medical attention and when her family arrived she was in severe pain and was vomiting blood.

“Because of the nature of her case with UKBA and her removal and the handing over of her to the authorities, her sexuality was exposed in Uganda and she and her family felt unable to seek medical treatment when she was allowed to go home as that would have put them in serious danger. Jackie died at home two months after this incident. This is not acceptable and it is not unique.”

Ms Nash asked Mr Swire: “While I obviously understand that the government will have big concerns about asylum seekers claiming they are gay even though they are not in order to gain leave to remain, I have to ask the Minister what discussions his Department has had with the Home Office on its policy of granting asylum to LGBT people from Uganda and other countries with homophobic legislation, and whether this policy has changed given the real threat to the lives of LGBT activists in Uganda and other countries in which this level of state-sponsored homophobia is rapidly rising?”

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who served as prisons minister until September 2012, welcomed last month’s announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May of a review into the handling of LGBT asylum cases.

During the debate he said: “I welcome the review that the Home Secretary is now undertaking of our handling of cases in which people have claimed asylum following discrimination on the ground of their homosexuality. That review is long overdue. The commitment to give refuge to LGBT people seeking asylum from oppression in their own country was in my party’s manifesto, as well as in that of the Liberal Democrats. Given that both parts of the coalition supported it, it should have been in the programme for government.”

Mr Blunt added: “The disgraceful stories of how the UK Border Agency has handled some of these cases in the past few years are now, happily, a matter of public record and have caused the Home Secretary to take this extremely welcome action.”

In yesterday’s response to the debate on Uganda, Mr Swire did not mention the issue of asylum. He ruled out imposing a travel ban on Uganda’s politicians who support the country’s anti-gay legislation.

A campaign was this week started to stop the deportation of a Ugandan lesbian who has been “violently persecuted” for being gay, and for renting property to gay tenants, from the UK.