The Home Office released Lazia Nabbanja on Wednesday 7th March 2018, after almost six months in Yarlswood Detention Centre.
By OPAL Team: Lazia Nabbanja fled to the UK after her husband beat and injured her when he discovered that she was a lesbian. On arrival in the UK, Lazia claimed asylum on grounds that she would face violence and death in Uganda, but the Home Office rejected her claim in 2017. The Home Office refused to believe that she was a lesbian on grounds that her account of details of her relationships in her country of origin was inconsistent.
Lazia’s friends and the charity Out and Proud African LGBTI who support her disagree with the Home Office’s assertions that Lazia’s life is not in danger in Uganda, and that it is unlikely she would be identified in her country of origin. Her supporters argue that online news, videos and social media provide copious evidence of her sexuality.
Before Lazia’s detention, she was involved in campaigning for the rights of LGBTI people in Africa, and also attended at gay pride marches, working as a steward. These activities were widely shared on social media.
Abbey Kiwanuka, founder of the charity Out and Proud African LGBTI, who has been supporting Ms Nabbanja, asks “What is the point of detaining someone for six months at great risk of harm and the taxpayer’s expense, when you know for sure that the chances of deporting her are very slim?” Lazia’s mental state has been affected by continuous detention. She now needs more support to regain her confidence and return to being the person she was.
Lazia is fortunate to be surrounded by many people who support her, but such support is not accessible to most women in Yarlswood. Most are alone, abandoned by their lawyers; the only people left to support them are fellow detainees and grassroots groups. “That’s why I commend the work the grassroots are doing in support of these vulnerable women, visiting them, and even giving them phone cards to call their loved ones. I am very sure that Lazia’s would face persecution in Uganda if she were deported. Yes, the Home Office may not believe her account of her sexuality, but those in Uganda who have read about her LGBTI activities in the UK would persecute her, and this is of paramount importance.”
Lazia’s lawyers insist that the Home Office should now take into consideration her new evidence: “We consider that the Home Office did not engage with the fresh claim and, as a result, we have brought Judicial Review proceedings to challenge their refusal of it.
“Powerful new evidence has arisen in Lazia’s case due to her story featuring on the Facebook page of a major Ugandan news channel, which has over 1.1 million followers. She has already received multiple death threats, and there is clear evidence that the Ugandan government has set up what it calls an anti-pornography committee to monitor homosexuality and lesbianism.”
In response to a question about that committee, the Minister for Ethics in Uganda Simon Lokodo has said: “We are going to attack and attack. I have fresh tactics. One of them is a sensor gadget or machine. We are going to procure this machine, and it will detect homos….”
Lazia’s oral permission hearing for Judicial Review was adjourned in the light of the new evidence, and we require further funds for the next hearing and to take the case forward.
A petition to the Home Office to keep Lazia in the UK has garnered more than 70,242 signatures.
The Home Office cut legal aid for Lazia, and she now depends on well-wishers to fund her case. OPAL is presently seeking to raise money via a crowd-funding page to finance a judicial review of the decision to reject Ms Nabbanja’s asylum application.