A twenty year old Nigerian gay man seeking asylum in the UK has been deported back to Nigeria – where he could face death.
Emmanuel Obahiaghbon was deported on Monday 4 December, on the orders of the UK’s Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne.
Obahiaghbon had claimed asylum on the grounds of persecution because of his homosexuality. A psychiatrist had visited him in detention and confirmed that he had symptoms of trauma consistent with having suffered physical and sexual violence.
Acting at Obahiaghbon’s request, gay human rights group OutRage! had presented the Home Office Immigration Minister new evidence corroborating Emmanuel’s claims of persecution – including a Nigerian police warrant for his arrest on charges of homosexuality and a solicitor’s letter stating that he was likely to be sentenced to death by stoning. Emmanuel’s region of Nigeria is subject to Islamic Sharia law, which stipulates the death penalty for gay sex.
“The Home Office dismissed these new documents as fakes, without giving Emmanuel an opportunity to present them to an asylum tribunal or to have them independently assessed,” said Jill Power, the OutRage! asylum team coordinator who handled Mr Obahiaghbon’s bid to get a reconsideration of his deportation order.
“He was given no chance to gather corroborating evidence. The Home Office acted as police, prosecutor, judge and jury,” said Power.
“Peter Tatchell and I were appointed by Emmanuel as his interim legal representatives. On his behalf, we asked the Home Office Immigration Minister to suspend his deportation, in order to allow him time to find a new solicitor, make a fresh asylum claim based on the new evidence, and to get corroboration that the police warrant and solicitor’s letter were genuine.”
Power added that, “Emmanuel only recently discovered that a warrant had been issued for his arrest on charges of homosexuality and that he was likely to be tried under Sharia law and face the death penalty. This was a huge shock to him.”
“We faxed the Home Office letters from Nigeria confirming that he was wanted by the police on charges of homosexuality, that he was disowned and denounced by his family, and that he was likely to face trial by Sharia courts and be sentenced to death by stoning. These requests were rejected by Liam Byrne, without any proper hearing.”
According to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, “The deportation of Emmanuel is typical of the routine abuse of gay asylum applicants by the Home Office.”
“He was given no chance to prove the genuineness of his new evidence. They bundled him onto a plane as fast as they could, to stop him from challenging their arbitrary dismissal of his letters from the Nigerian police and solicitor,” he added
Male homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria. It is punishable by 14 years jail under criminal law and, in the Muslim regions, by stoning to death under Sharia law.