Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Nigeria, Queer Politics, Uganda

Deportation Story: From Kampala to London and back

Fighting deportation is one of the hardest legal battles you could face and fighting to return AFTER deportation is near impossible.    In 2007, 12,525 failed asylum seekers  people were deported from Britain and 63,140 in total.  Of the 24, 550 asylum claims in 2009 73% were turned down one of whom was a young woman from northern Uganda who had sought asylum after being repeatedly raped.  Her case had been pending for 5 years. Every couple of weeks she would report to the police station as all asylum claimants have to do.  Each week for nearly 5 years her anxiety would start the week before signing on and become increasingly worse as the day neared.  Each time she signed on she would go into a panic that it would be her last and she would disappear.  One Thursday in March 2009 she went to sign on as usual and was immediately locked up and then taken to Yarlswood Detention Center.   By Sunday she was back in Kampala despite desperate attempts by her solicitor and barrister to stop the deportation.   The struggle to bring her back continues and she remains in the protection of a church in Kampala.   Her treatment and that of thousands of other deportees amounts to slow but intense torture, always living on the verge of being caught for simply living.

John ‘Bosco” Nyombi is also from Uganda.   He came to Britain in 2002 after fearing for his life as a gay man in Uganda.   On arrival in London he made a claim for asylum and after three months the Home Office withdraw their case .   Despite repeated requests, the Home Office  failed to put this in writing as required.   John then found a job but later his application for renewal of his stay was denied so back to court.  Again there was no case but from 2004 he was told to report regularly to the police station – the usual procedure for pending asylum cases as I mentioned above.  Then on the 9th September he went to sign on as usual and was immediately detained  for deportation.

Bosco then describes the day he was transported by force to Heathrow airport by Group 4 Guards [private UK security company].  He was handcuffed,  screaming and struggling they dragged  him out of the van and punched him in the groin,  cuffed his legs and put him on the plane.  On the 19th September he arrived in Kampala and was handed over to Ugandan immigration.   Two days before this happened Bosco had appeared in the New Vision which reported him as a gay man.  He was ridiculed by the immigration and then the police.    With the help of a British diplomat,  Bosco managed to return to the UK.  In the interview below he tells his story.

The procedure following his seizure at the police station right up to deportation is very typical. In March 2008, Ayo Omotade, a Nigerian on his way home to his brother’s wedding complained to the security guards in a British Airways flight about their handling of a deportee.   Ayo was eventually thrown off the plane together with all the other passengers in economy class and he was charged with “of the charge of behaving in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly manner towards crew”.     Over a year later after considerable stress to himself and his family, Ayo was found Not Guilty and is presently pursuing a private suit against British Airways.

We rarely get to hear the stories of those deported.  They become invisible, lost as they invariably go into hiding in their home countries fearful of being seen or heard.   Thousands and thousands of people across the world living in fear of either being deported or after being deported and this is why John “Bosco” Nyombi’s story is so important.

In March 2009 my solicitor rang me to say that I had won my case. I was given the telephone number of the person to contact who was going to give me the proper document to travel back to the UK. So this guy flew from Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda to give me the document. I went to meet him at the British high commission. He told me you have to make sure you are at the airport in the morning because the plane is leaving at 9.50 am. He gave me the travel document on 5 March and the flight was on 6 March.

He told me that when he gets back to Nairobi he is going to talk to somebody at the airport at Entebbe in Kampala, and then he would send me the name and telephone number of that person. So when I got to the airport I could contact that person. And then they would help me to get through. I waited for the text message; I didn’t get anything. In the morning I was still where I was staying, thinking: ‘What am I going to do? What is going to happen?’   Continue reading here.


  1. @Sokari, well, firstly, there is a distinction between deportation and administrative removal. Most of those removed from the UK by the UK Border Agency are cases of administrative removal. It is not disputed that poorly trained enforcement officials have been known to be abrasive, even brutal sometimes, but immigration control is a legitimate pursuit of governments all over the world.

    It is not unreasonable for asylum seekers to be required to report periodically either to a police station or to an immigration reporting centre, since it is the case that many would and do abscond and disappear into the community where no such reporting restriction is imposed. And despite the loudly ringing alarms we often read about, as in this post, the UK maintains one of the fairest systems in all of the developed world. Hence the country's popularity with asylum seekers.

    Asylum is governed by the UN Convention for Refugees, which sets out specific requirements that a prospective asylum seeker must satisfy in order for the obligations of the Convention member state to become engaged. That a person has been repeatedly raped in their home country is in itself not a ground for asylum to be granted under the Convention. Being gay however, may qualify, if it can be established that gay people in the asylum seeker's home country can be termed to be “members of a particular social group” and the asylum seeker can establish that he is in fact gay. (Membership of a particular social group is one of the Convention grounds for asylum. There are other specific grounds set out in the Convention). The asylum seeker must also be able to establish that he has a well-founded fear of persecution resulting from being a member of such a group. All of these terms have legal definitions: – “well-founded”, “fear of persecution” “particular social group”etc..

    In deciding most asylum cases in the UK, the law and immigration policy have been strictly followed, including the human rights legislation both of the UK and the European Union. If an asylum seeker has failed to meet the criteria laid down by law and has exhausted all of his appeal rights, it is well within the power of the host country to arrange for his removal back to his home country. There are many asylum claims that are successful because the grant of refugee status by the Convention member state is obligatory where the requirements of the Refugees Convention are met. There are however a multitude of bogus asylum claims and it should surprise no one that immigration authorities are often sceptical..

  2. Sokari

    @Anenigiyefa With all due respect I have worked with asylum seekers including those imprisoned in Yarlswood Detention Center [ a place I have visited on numerous occasions] and I would point out that the UK's has an appalling record in its treatment and processing of asylum seekers particularly those in detention centers and children. In fact there have been numerous reports and one in particular published in the New Statesman which condemn the whole system and process.[see below]

    I am well versed in the laws on UN Refugees and I assert that Britain's application of these laws is corrupt and twisted. Although rape is not officially grounds sufficient precedents have been set in Europe and in the UK for asylum to be granted likewise those who seek asylum on grounds of sexual orientation of which I personally know at least 8 people in the last 3 years.

    UK applies the law in a complete arbitary fashion, the conditions under which detainees are imprisoned including children and families is scandalous. Whilst not unreasonable to have to report to the police station it is a form of slow torture knowing that one day you can be detained and deported within a 48 hour period despite your case being under review or worse without any legal representation. The case of the woman I mentioned who was a good friend was actually under review at the time of her deportation. Another scandal is the way women are returned to cities where they know no one such as my friend who was returned to Kampala [she is from Northern Uganda]. Another young woman who has been in the UK since she was 8 is under threat of deportation to Kinshasa when all her family are in London. She does not speak any Congolese languages and has no connection there and is presently locked up in Yarlswood while her case is under review. How is that necessary?

    The processing time is another scandal as many women [and I worked strictly with African women] wait years unable to work, and under weekly threat of deportation as I have already said. Access to legal support is minimal and it is often left to organisations such as the one I worked for to do most of the work relying only on lawyers at the point of crisis due to lack of funds and frankly many of the lawyers really could care less.

    As Nyombi's testimony shows, the system is wholly unjust and geared to fail as many asylum claims as possible. What struck me about his case was the familiar story he tells which I have heard many times – it is not an unusual story.
    In addition there have been numerous reports as well as personal testimonies of the atrocious behaviour including sexual and physical abuse [all well documented in UK media] by thew private security firms such as Group 4 and SERCO.

    Meanwhile I direct you to a number of investigative reports
    New Statesman -,
    Guardian –

    There are bogus asylum claims and I am always amazed how often people like to cite those rather than focus on the real claims that are being dismissed and the treatment of real claimants. That is to treat everyone like a thief just because xxx percent of the population are thieves.

  3. @Sokari, like you, I too have and continue to work with asylum seekers in the UK and my experience is that the bogus asylum claims far outnumber the genuine ones. I was convinced one Congolese gentleman I was working with was genuine, until an Immigration Judge at a hearing pointed out to him (and to me), that his claim to have swam down the Congo River from point A to point B, in his bid to escape his persecutors, was totally implausible. The Judge produced a map of the country and showed that the distance between the two points was in excess of 100 miles. This man's credibility was completely damaged, with the consequence that his veracity regarding all other facts attested to in his witness statement was brought into question. Such that even if he was a genuine asylum seeker, his application would not succeed, but you couldn't blame the UK for this. In their desperate quest to be accepted as refugees, many of these people fabricate outlandish stories and in doing so often fail to successfully discharge the burden of proof that lies on them as the claimant. And it is these bogus claims that make it that much more difficult for the genuine ones to be believed.

    Of course the system in the UK is not perfect, but it is not worse than it is in most other Western European countries. The incarceration of children in immigration detention centres is wrong and has been roundly criticised. But in our criticism of the system, we tend to lose sight of the fact that genuine asylum seekers often do succeed in their claims. The UK's asylum and immigration policy is among the most liberal in Europe and the UK is not the big, bad, ugly state it is often painted as with regard to asylum and immigration issues.

  4. Sokari

    @Anengiyefa – We will have to agree to disagree on the UK's asylum record! The system is set up to refuse as many claims as possible rather than to judge each one on it's merit ie a presumption of guilt in the first place. With that kind of approach there will always be injustices and this is not acceptable. For the latest update on Yarlswood just published today see including

  5. @Sokari, when a person is charged with a crime there is a presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty. And the standard of proof in criminal cases is a very high standard. Immigration cases are different, in that, the presumption is that the immigration/asylum applicant is not entitled to be granted asylum, until he/she has succeeded in proving otherwise. The burden always lies on the applicant/claimant to prove that he/she is entitled to whatever it is he/she is applying for. Also the standard of proof in immigration cases is not high, yet many applicants still fail to prove their case even to the low standard that is required.

    We cannot blame the state when an applicant fails to prove his case and naturally, it is not in the national interest of any nation to operate an open-door immigration policy. My opinion is that many of us are failing to take a broader view so as to appreciate the wider issues, but rather we seem to be focussing only to the perceived poor treatment of immigration detainees…

  6. guys have created a new strategy against deportation. that is to complain that there will be treated bad back home and they need to stay in the country.