Jacqueline Nantumbwe Must Stay: Why the Current UK System For LGB Asylum Seekers is Broken

On Friday, 24 January, Ugandan asylum seeker Jacqueline Nantumbwe was detained by the UK Border Agency. She is currently being held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, which is known for abusing its detainees and has been described as a site of “second torture,” while her legal team works to bail her out and make a Fresh Claim for asylum.

via RT

via RT

Nantumbwe fled Uganda in 2006, where she had been forced into marrying a man. Under the country’s increasingly draconian anti-gay laws, she had been imprisoned, tortured and subjected to “corrective” rape upon being discovered with her girlfriend, Rose. Rose has not been heard from since.

In 2012, Nantumbwe’s first appeal for asylum was rejected and she was relocated to north-west England, away from her partner of 5 years who was forced to stay in London.

The judge hearing her case didn’t believe either of them was gay.

Technically, the UK – which is deeply implicated in many of the anti-gay laws that lead to LGB persecution abroad in the first place – adheres to European Union directives that recognise LGB asylum seekers as a protected class, but this translates poorly into reality. There is no time cap on how long asylum seekers can be kept in detention and LGB asylum seekers in particular face tremendous hurdles in “proving” their sexuality. Even being actively involved in LGBT organisations or having been imprisoned for being gay, as in Nantumbwe’s case, is not evidence enough. Many asylum seekers are subject to a humiliating process that requires them to describe sexual encounters in detail to UKBA authorities, with some having gone as far as submitting video or photographic evidence of them having sex with their partners.

The Manchester-based Metropolitan Church, which Nantumbwe is part of, is currently coordinating efforts for her release and asylum application. Here are some ways in which you can help:

  • Text Nantumbwe at 07979 477999. Not only will your words reach her directly, the Metropolitan Church believes that this number is being monitored by the UKBA and so plenty of activity will show them that she has strong support on the outside. (Don’t expect a reply though!)
  • E-mail Home Secretary Theresa May at [email protected], citing Home Office ref. N1178674/002. With the attention that her case has been getting this past week, her MP Sir Gerald Kaufman is now looking into it so the next step is to engage UKBA authorities directly. The Church has provided some pointers as to what to include, and requests that Andy Brauston be bcc’d at [email protected] so they can keep track of how many messages have been sent.
  • Sign the Change.org petition directed at the UK Home Office. The 3,000+ signatures on this petition and a paper one have already been included as evidence in support of her Fresh Claim that was submitted on Wednesday, but it won’t hurt to show that support for her is still going strong as her case is now being considered.

Nantumbwe will be held in Yarl’s Wood until she is either released on bail (depending on how the Fresh Claim goes) or deported to Uganda. The UKBA relies on public ignorance to allow deportations to fly under the radar – don’t let them do that to another person.

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Fikri has written 61 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for putting this case in the spotlight Fikri. LGBT asylum claims were featured on Woman’s Hour yesterday and it has been on my mind. It’s shocking that this denial of identity and intrusive questioning is still so so common, but it’s sadly not surprising.

  2. It is great seeing UK issues covered in such an articulate way.
    (If you text the number from abroad, you’ll need a 0044 instead of just a zero at the beginning.)

    • Is it like this? 0044 7979 477999?

      I’ve never texted an international number before so I have no clue.

      • If you’re in the US, you’ll also need to add 011 to the start of it, so it’s 011 44 7979 477999. Or try +44 7979 477999. Thank you for wanting to text her from so far away!

  3. This is horrifying. I followed all the steps you listed. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I really hate this world sometimes.

  4. All other things aside, I don’t understand how it even matters if someone “is” gay when they’ve been sent to prison because someone apparently thought so and thought that was a good enough reason? Clearly, they face serious consequences on returning to their home country, and for riddiculous reasons. Shouldn’t that be enough of a reason to let them stay?

  5. Wow, this: “Even being actively involved in LGBT organisations or having been imprisoned for being gay, as in Nantumbwe’s case, is not evidence enough.” is the most crazy to me.

    If you are imprisoned for being gay, meaning that your country of origin has marked you as gay,then it seems logical that it shouldn’t matter if you actually are or not, since you can’t go back to your country of origin without facing exactly the kind of persecution asylum is designed to protect people from.

    • Logic. If only the people involved in the upper levels of this could take their blinkers off and think this clearly.

      • The upper levels (politicians, policy and guidance) have got it right, I suspect because staff worked with the good NGOs to understand the issue. Unfortunately it’s down to inconsistent implementation on the front-line. Staff in the Border Agency don’t have a great track record of treating people with dignity or respect. You can imagine what their working culture is like.

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