News (World)

Ugandan gay man fears for his life as he gets deported: “I have nowhere to go”

Activists hold signs protesting Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Act"
Activists hold signs protesting Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Act" Photo: Screenshot/Reuters

Canada is set to deport a gay man back to Uganda next week, where he fears he could be arrested and even tortured.

“I’m stranded and even the place I thought would comfort me is forcing me out,” the 25-year-old, identified as “Sue” to protect him, told Global News. “It’s hard to explain the feeling, but right now I feel like I have nowhere to go.”

According to the Canadian new network, Sue initially arrived in the country as a student and has been working as a nurse in Edmonton. But with his work visa expired and his application for refugee status rejected, he is being forced to fly back to Uganda next week.

Earlier this year, the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the “Anti-Homosexuality Act.” While homosexual sex was already punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda under the country’s colonial-era penal code, the new law imposed a life sentence for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities” and even baned identifying as LGBTQ+. Described as one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the world, it also made what it describes as acts of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by the death penalty.

“There is a very high chance that I’ll be arrested, tortured, just for identifying as a gay man,” Sue said. “This is really something very, very disheartening that a fellow human being can treat someone harshly.”

According to Global News, Sue began the process of applying for refugee status in April 2022. While the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has said that Ugandan nationals whose applications were rejected prior to May 2023—when the country’s draconian law was passed—can reapply, Sue does not qualify for reapplication because his case was resolved in July of this year.

Canada has not placed a moratorium on deporting LGBTQ+ Ugandans, as it has on members of other groups from countries where they would be in danger.

“I’m not sure why Canada hasn’t put a moratorium in place for the deportation of LGBTQ Ugandans,” Sue’s lawyer Michael Battista said, “but given the deterioration of the human rights situation in that country, it would be, I think, a very good policy move on the part of the government of Canada.”

Sue and Battista explained that his refugee application was denied because his former counsel could not prove his sexual orientation. Battista said that officials have refused to consider evidence presented on appeal, including evidence of Sue’s participation in Edmonton’s LGBTQ+ community and providing a sworn affidavit from a well-known Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist.

“How am I supposed to prove that I’m a gay man? I just told you I am a gay man,” Sue said.

“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” Rebecca Purdy, a spokesperson for the CBSA, said in a statement. “All individuals who are subject to removal have access to due process and procedural fairness. They may seek redress through various processes at the IRB (appeals), the Federal Court of Canada (judicial review) and if eligible, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (Pre-removal risk assessment if they feel they may be subject to persecution in their country of origin, and Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications for Permanent Residence).”

In a statement, Isabelle Dubois, a spokesperson for Canada’s Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, said that the ministry is “deeply troubled” by Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

“In making decisions, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) takes into account whether an individual has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, including 2SLGBTQI+,” Dubois’s statement read. “Canada is monitoring the situation in Uganda and remains committed to offer refugee protection to those who need it, including individuals who have been persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and sex characteristics.”

As Battista works to get Canada’s Immigration Appeal Board to take action in the coming days, Sue worries that he will have nowhere to go if he is forced back to Uganda. “My whole family abandoned me so even if I reach the airport, I don’t know where I’m going to stay. I don’t know where I’m going to go. I’ve run out of options,” he said.

“This whole thing is a horror. I feel like I’m in a nightmare, and I really want to wake up, but I cannot,” Sue said. “I’m just praying and hoping that the government can intervene.”

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