A Nigerian woman who has spent the last 13 years locked in a fierce legal battle to remain in the UK after being forced to flee her home country because of her sexuality has finally been granted asylum by the Home Office.
Aderonke Apata, 50, has spent over a decade in legal limbo trying to prove her sexuality to secure her safety since arriving in the UK in 2004.
Her case generated headlines in 2015 when a High Court judge rejected her asylum bid, accusing the longtime LGBT+ activist of lying about her sexuality, despite her submitting intimate video and photographs of her and her partner’s sex life as evidence.
Aderonke, was sentenced to death in her native Nigeria and whose husband was murdered in an “honour killing” after her sexuality was discovered, has now been granted refugee status and leave to remain in the UK after the Home Office conceded her case last week.
Speaking exclusively to Attitude, the committed LGBT+ campaigner expressed her delight at the news, thanking all those who’d supported her through the 13-year battle for a safe place to call home.
“Let me first say a huge thank you to my family, friends and everybody here in the UK and all over the world who showed their supports for me throughout this traumatic ordeal and stood by me,” she said.
“The awesome people here in the UK who show me love even including standing up and ready to be witnesses for me in my Court hearing and my brilliant Legal Team who did a tremendous work in sealing this victory off. My appreciation also goes to my Medical Team.”
Aderonke was honoured with an Attitude Pride Award last month for her ongoing LGBT+ activism, which has included founding African Rainbow Family, a charity that seeks to help LGBT+ African people who arrive in the UK ill-equipped to deal with the notoriously tough asylum system.
Following her own bid’s success, she called on the Home Office drop damaging and discriminatory policies when dealing with LGBT+ asylum cases.
“The Home Office needs to catch up with the rest of the UK, drop its vile ‘proof of sexuality’ policy and move on from 1967. All LGBTI people seeking asylum in the UK want – like anyone else – is to be treated with fairness, dignity and humanity.
“Having been forced to flee by hate and intolerance at home, being branded a liar by the Home Office is demeaning and cruel for LGBTI people seeking asylum.
She added: “I hope the Home Office will look back, reflect on my case and treat everyone with the decency and respect they deserve.”
The barrister who represented Aderonke during her case also slammed the Home Office’s approach to asylum claims involving sexual identity, saying its current approach is “not fit for purpose.”
S Chelvan, a lawyer specialising in LGBT+ asylum cases at London’s No5 Chambers, pointed out that a “low standard of proof” is generally applied to asylum cases, and that the government’s current approach to LGBT+ applicants “dehumanises” them by “continuing to detain, isolate, stigmatise and harm some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”
“We must demand change, starting at the highest level,” he said.
Figures published by Attitude earlier this year showed that at least 76 LGBT+ asylum seekers were detained in immigration removal centres across the UK between 1 January and 18 November 2016.
A Home Office spokesperson said at the time that the government “remain[s] committed to improving the asylum process for those claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation and decision-makers are provided with dedicated guidance and training on the management of such claims.”