Jackie Nanyonjo

A human rights group has accused the UK Border Agency of forcibly deporting a lesbian woman to Uganda and in the process beating her to death.

It’s been claimed by Movement for Justice that Jackie Nanyonjo died in Uganda last Friday as a result of injuries inflicted by ‘escorts’ acting on behalf of the UK’s Border Agency.

Her death followed a protracted battle to secure asylum in the UK on the basis of her being a lesbian and facing real danger if returned to Uganda.

UK authorities had refused to believe her claim that she was a lesbian despite what Movement for Justice asserts was “ample evidence of friends and her partner”.

An earlier attempt to deport Nanyonjo in December was abandoned after she resisted. She apparently filed a complaint about mistreatment at the hands of the escorts provided by government contractor, Reliance, but this was rejected.

Nanyonjo was finally deported from Britain on 10 January. Movement for Justice claims that:

“…on Qatar Airways Flight QR76, Jackie fought bravely for her freedom with all the strength she could gather against four Reliance guards. She continued fighting when the guards drew curtains round their end of the plane to hide their crimes. She struggled for as long as she could until, beaten up, half strangled and bent double, she was overcome by the pain in her chest and neck and was unable to breathe.

“When Jackie arrived at Entebbe Airport the ‘escort’ party handed her over to the Ugandan authorities, who held her for many more hours without any medical attention. When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed.

“Since Jackie was in hiding as a known lesbian, protected by relatives, every trip to a doctor or hospital involved a risk to her life and to the safety of her family. They were condemned to watch the agonising decline of Jackie’s health and strength over the next two months,” reported the group.

A protest against Nanyonjo’s death and what has been described as the “mental torture of the immigration and asylum system, with its arbitrary, subjective decisions and impossible demands to ‘prove that you are a lesbian'” will be held outside the Home Office headquarters in London on Thursday.

“Jackie was a fighter for herself and for others: a lesbian who escaped from anti-gay persecution and a brutal forced marriage…” said Movement for Justice. “In Britain she had been able for the first time to live and love openly as a lesbian; she was much-loved by a wide circle of friends who kept in touch with her after she was deported and who miss her deeply.”

The group has called for the Border Agency and the guards accused of killing Nanyonjo to be put on trial for murder.

Nanyonjo’s story has once again highlighted the UK’s often-criticised asylum system which has repeatedly refused to accept claims by refugees that they face harm because of their sexuality if returned to their homelands.

Activists have accused the UK government of reneging on Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2010 promise that “those Africans seeking asylum on the basis of sexual orientation and at real risk of persecution in their home countries should be allowed to stay in the UK”.

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