Ugandan LGBTI activists react to Britain’s imminent deportation of gay asylum seeker

LGBTI activists in Uganda want the British government to develop local capacity for vetting gay asylum seekers intending to enter Britain.

The activists told Behind the Mask on the eve of the UK’s imminent deportation of a Ugandan gay asylum seeker, Robert Segwanyi, back to Uganda, that often the British Home Office takes decisions without consulting Ugandan activists.

The activists note that some people pretend to be at risk gays to enter Britain and other western countries. “So they (Britain and other Western countries) should work with us (local activists),” Mr Frank Mugisha, the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said.

Mr Mugisha was quick to add that his comments were general and not specific to Segwanyi’s case. Mugisha said: “Immigration (British) should carry out good analysis, work with us and grant genuine cases asylum. But because of the situation here, it is not correct to come up with guidelines and just reject everyone who applies.”

Segwanyi’s plea for asylum was rejected as he was said by British immigration authorities not to be gay, and therefore would not face any persecution in Uganda. However, according to the LGBT Asylum News site, a witness living in UK disputes this and insists that Segwanyi is gay.

The deportation of Mr Segwanyi comes barely a week after Ugandan activists launched the Hate No More Campaign to denounce social and institutionalized hatred of homosexuals.

The four-month campaign will see gay activists aggressively tackle misinformation and fears that promote hatred. The tools used by the campaigners will include numerous media messages, one to one dialogue initiatives and calls for an end to discrimination, stigma, hatred and humiliation of homosexuals.

The activists will also address anti gay sentiments fuelled by politicians, evangelical Christian Pastors, the media and punitive laws.

Some of the stereotypes that inform gay hatred in Uganda include claims that gays “recruit children into homosexuality” and that “gays are anti Christian and anti population growth.”

The imminent deportation has sent mixed signals to gay activists and human rights defenders in Uganda as the current Ugandan Parliament may reintroduce the notorious Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009, which expired with the eighth Parliament earlier this year.

However, gay activists in Uganda faces numerous challenges, including limited resources to liaise with international partners on gay asylum seekers.

Mr Jeff Ogwaro a co coordinator of the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a grouping of 30 gay rights organizations and human rights defenders, said the UK as an international democracy should not send the wrong signal to other countries to open floodgates to deporting alleged or actual homosexuals back to Uganda.

Dr Paul Semugooma, another activist agreed with Mugisha. He said, “For quite some time, there has been a tendency for everyone to claim that they are gay. That (the deportation) is kind of hard in a way because we cannot deny or prove what the truth is. But, refusing asylum for LGBT should not be so.”

He added that there should be some kind of local control on recommendations of gay asylum seekers to weed out fake cases.

According to the website, if the decision to deport Segwanyi is not reversed “Kenya Airways will be at the unenviable position of flying a widely publicized and “publicly outed” gay person to one of the most homophobic places in Africa.”

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