DEVELOPING STORY – London’s Guardian Unlimited is reporting that Faridah Kenyini, 20, a young lesbian who fled Uganda after her Muslim father threatened to kill her is being deported back home tonight, despite facing persecution and a jail sentence of up to seven years because of her sexuality.
According to the report, Faridah Kenyini arrived in Britain in 2004 when she was 17. Her sexuality was questioned by a judge at an earlier asylum hearing, where it was implied that she was too young to be aware of her sexual orientation. Since moving to Newcastle, Kenyini has been in a steady relationship with Sarah Garanette, 25, a security officer and British citizen.
Kenyini was due to be removed last Tuesday and got as far as Heathrow, before being returned to Yarls Wood detention center following an administrative error.
Jim Cousins, Labour MP for Newcastle Central contacted the immigration minister, Liam Byrne, today in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the removal. He supplied the minister with details of what he calls an "extraordinary offer" by Garanette to accompany Kenyini to Uganda on a voluntary basis, following a civil marriage ceremony, and then apply to return under a "fiancee" visa.
Cousins said he was "distressed" about the planned removal. He described the offer as being a "real breakthrough, which, above all, demonstrates the strength of the couple’s relationship." He said that there were many people willing to stand surety for Kenyini if she was granted bail.
"I am fully committed to this solution and have a great deal of respect for Faridah’s partner for taking a decision that clearly contains a distinct element of risk." If the offer was taken up, he said, it would resolve the situation in a "humane way that would also save the taxpayer money."
The couple play an active part in the lesbian and gay community in Newcastle and have widespread support from community groups and students. Local playwright Kathleen McCleary and actress Miriam Margoyles are backing the campaign for Kenyini to stay.
Miriam Margoyles said: "In this country, we say we have the freedom to be who we are, but do we?"
Uganda has a well-documented record of persecuting homosexuals. Section 140 of its penal code criminalizes "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" and the offence carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence. The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, once proposed the arrest of all homosexuals, though he subsequently modified his position and called for a return to days when "these few individuals were either ignored or speared by their parents". >
In August, the Ugandan tabloid, Red Pepper, published the names and workplaces of alleged homosexuals, aimed at "showing the nation how fast the terrible vice of sodomy is eating up our society."
The legislation banning same sex relations was inherited from British colonial rule.
Garanette said that she was "petrified" at the prospect of traveling to Uganda but that she would do anything to remain with her partner. She is unable to travel to Uganda tonight because her passport is at the Home Office. She submitted it under the terms of new security industry authorization legislation, which requires all security workers to be vetted.
Speaking from Yarls Wood yesterday, Kenyini said that said that she was doing very well at college in Newcastle before she was arrested and that her aim was to qualify as a nurse. She said that none of her family in Kampala would help her and that she regarded her partner in Newcastle as her only relative.
"I am afraid that my removal documents will have details about my sexuality and that I will be handed over to the police and abused," she said.
The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases but added that it was committed to the protection of genuine refugees.
"If their application is refused, they have a right of appeal. If the appeal is unsuccessful, that means that it has been judged safe for that particular individual to return to their country of origin," it said.
Source: Guardian Unlimited
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1) CALL AND FAX THE AIRLINE ON MONDAY
We are asking that on MONDAY you call Kenyan airlines at Heathrow airport on 01784 888 222
Ask to speak to the duty officer and say you want to LOG your concerns for the well being of a woman who is being deported on flight K101 Kenya Airlines to ENTEBBE. Tell them that Faridah is being forced onto the flight against her will. Say that she is very scared and distressed, and likely to cause distress to other passengers. She is on suicide watch at Yarlswood detention centre.
FAX the airline using the model letter attached – or make up your own
Fax 01784 888 311 or 020 8745 5027 (London office) – fax both if you can afford to.
2) EMAIL THE GUARDIAN
Liam Byrne the Immigration Minister recently wrote to the letters page of the Guardian in an attempt to justify forced deportation. Write back to the Guardian and tell them that you disagree with the system. Mention Faridah and the fact she is a lesbian with a partner in Newcastle but the Home Office refuses to believe her.
3) CALL THE HOME OFFICE PRESS OFFICE
Ask them if it is true that a vulnerable young woman is being sent back to Uganda against her will. The Home Office Press Office aims to maintain a positive image for the Home Office. They will not want bad publicity. Some people pretend they are freelance journalists. You will get passed from pillar to post. Don’t give up, just keep talking to as many people as you can.
Phone numbers of:
Immigration, International & Community
Assistant Director: 020 7035 3829
Wendy Fielder: 020 7035 3815
Jan Kemal: 020 7035 3821
Helen Bower: 020 7035 3816
Rachel Shaw 020 7035 3817
Try any of these. Start at the top and if they don’t answer, work your way down the list!
5) PASS THIS MESSAGE ON to your friends and colleagues. If you have time it would help if you could let us know what action you have taken.