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UK Home Office fighting against return of lesbian woman it unlawfully deported to Uganda

26-year-old 'PN' says she has been gang-raped since the British government unlawfully forced her to return in 2013.

2019-07-29

The UK Home Office is appealing against the return of a lesbian women it unlawfully deported six years ago to Uganda, where she says she was subsequently gang-raped.

The government was ordered by the High Court to return the 26-year-old woman, known only as 'PN', earlier this month after it ruled her deportation in 2013 under the Home Office's "detained fast-track" system was unlawful. 

PN says she has been forced to live in the shadows since being sent back to Uganda, where same-sex sexual relations are punishable with life imprisonment and the persecution of LGBTQ people by members of the public is widespread.

The former hairdresser says the violence came to a head last year when she was gang-raped. She fell pregnant and has since given birth to a son.

“I was sleeping one night, the people came, they banged on the door, they stole everything and they raped me. I was on my own in the room,” she told The Independent. “I couldn’t tell the police as I don’t want them to know who I am… I moved away from that place.

“The only people I have in my life are my baby and the people who are helping me in the UK.”

PN is due to return to the UK on Monday (29 July) - the first person deported under "detained fast-track" to be ordered back to the UK - but the Home Office says it will appeal against the decision, leaving her long-term fate uncertain.

PN originally came to the UK in 2010 as a 17-year-old after being subjected to threats and violence in Uganda because of her relationship with a woman. She says her grandmother, who she had grown up with, was killed as part of the targeted abuse.

Upon arriving in the UK on a visitor's visa she began working as a hairdresser, but after overstaying her visa was arrested by immigration officials.

“When I first got to the UK, I wasn’t sure that even there it would be okay, but when I was there I realised no one was going to kill me or catch me, so I could be myself,“ she said.

"I was happy because I had left everything in Uganda, no one was going to harm me or to kill me and I started feeling that I was going to be okay now.

"I had friends, my gift was making hair and that helped me make friends there and that’s how I got money to live.

"It shocked me to find out I had to go back."

PN is being supported by Movement for Justice, which has started an emergency fundraiser to help cover her initial living costs after arriving back in the UK.

Her case could poentially open the doors for thousands of similar challenges from those deported under the "detained fast-track system", which was introduced in 2005 by Tony Blair's Labour government and was in place until 2015, when it was ruled to be "structurally unfair."

Karen Doyle, national organiser of Movement for Justice, said: "Thousands of asylum seekers who were subject to an unfair process and who right now could be living in fear, imprisoned or murdered.

"The Home Office have a responsibility to put right this injustice, they should publicly put out appeals in countries people were returned to, for those removed under fast track to seek legal advice."

A government spokesperson said: "It would be inappropriate to comment whilst legal proceedings are ongoing."

According to The Independent, data published last November showed that 78 per cent of asylum claims referring to sexual orientation were refused by the Home Office in 2017-18.

That figure was a 52 per cent increase on 2015, when 61 per cent of sexual oritentation claims were rejected.

The Home Office was recently blasted for covering its social media logos in rainbows to mark Pride month while keeping up its policy of deporting LGBTQ people back to countries where they will face persecuation for their sexuality, and was banned from attending UK Black Pride earlier this month.

Meanwhile, we recently highlighted the story of Attitude Pride Award winner Kenneth Macharia, who is fighting deportation to Kenya - where judges recently rule to uphol laws banning homosexuality - with help from his gay rugby teammates. You can read more about his story here.