Governments change, the outrageous homophobic behaviour by the UK Border Agency stays the same:
Edson ‘Eddy’ Cosmas has lived and studied in London for several years. As a child, he spent time in Manchester whilst his father studied there. Eddy, a young, black, gay man from Tanzania, in east Africa, has built up a circle of friends and fellow students, and is determined to succeed in life. He has strong political beliefs, and never misses an opportunity to speak out in support of gay rights, immigrant rights and anti-racism campaigns.
On Monday 9th May, Eddy went to the Home Office in Croydon to submit an initial claim for asylum, and to take a screening interview. Long gone were the days of British immigration officials telling gay people seeking asylum to just ‘stay in the closet’, or to ‘act straight’; a ruling from the Supreme Court in July 2010 ordered that gay people could not be sent back to countries where they would face persecution for their sexuality. With this in mind, Eddy was understandably shocked when, at the end of his interview, he was detained and put into the back of a van.
Only then was he told that he was being taken to Harmondsworth detention centre. When I spoke to Edson in his cell at Harmondsworth on Thursday evening, via mobile phone, he sounds tired and frustrated, but determined to resist deportation.
“I’ve been here for ten days,” Eddy tells me. “They call it a ‘detention centre’, but really it is like a jail. We are locked up, and followed everywhere by security.”
The Supreme Court ruling was designed to end years of discriminatory, anti-gay immigration policies, but instead, it has had the opposite effect. Openly gay activists such as Eddy, who should be automatically granted asylum under the landmark ruling, are being ‘fast-tracked’; held without their right to access to a lawyer of their choice, and scheduled for hastily-arranged hearings, and quick deportations.
“If I am sent back to Tanzania,” Eddy says on the phone, “I am facing being beaten, or death. The immigration officials told me that they didn’t believe me; I said to them, I am the one that has lived in Tanzania, not you, so how can you tell me whether this is true or not?”
The UK Border Agency has long shown itself to be disinterested in basic human decency, let alone holding to the rule of law. Sign this petition right now to send Theresa May a signal. How appalling that a Home Office which trumpets how well it treats its own gay staff, should continue to treat the most vulnerable gay people it’s responsible for in this way.