October 8, 2012 by Nash Riggins
Very rarely do deportations carried out by the UK Border Agency end with the failed asylum-seeker being publicly stoned to death; however, for Olalekan Ayelokun, this grim reality is becoming disturbingly likely.
Mr Ayelokun, a gay Nigerian citizen, is scrambling to remain in the UK as he awaits his eminent deportation home – where committing acts of homosexuality is considered a heinous crime.
Indeed, according to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97% of Nigerians believe that homosexuality is completely unacceptable – an overwhelming popular opinion in which Nigeria’s government is happy to enforce. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not specifically protect LGBT rights, and there is no enacted legislation protecting against discrimination or harassment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, not one political party in Nigeria has yet to speak out in favour of LGBT rights – leaving plenty of room for government-sponsored acts of violence and discrimination.
At present, the maximum punishment for homosexuality in the twelve northern states of Nigeria – the majority of which have adopted Sharia law – is a caning of one hundred lashes if unmarried, as well as at least one year’s imprisonment. If married, the ‘crime’ is punishable by death via a public stoning (rajm). In Nigeria’s Christian-dominated southern states, which follow more secular criminal laws, the maximum punishment for same-sex activity is up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Given the massive danger Mr Ayelokun faces should he be forced to return to Nigeria, why would the UK Border Agency condemn this man to death by deportation? Because the immigration judge presiding over his case-file doesn’t believe Mr Ayelokun is actually gay.
Indeed, the UK Border Agency has apparently green-lit the Nigerian nurse’s deportation on the basis that Ayelokun is straight – despite hearing testimony from 3 homosexual lovers who claimed otherwise. Given this fairly overwhelming evidence, a question begs the answer: upon what criterion do immigration judges determine the sexual orientation of an individual?
A man shouldn’t have to burst into the High Court dressed in drag just to convince a judge that he’s gay. Mr Ayelokun has come out as gay whilst protected by the safety net of a relatively tolerant nation – and now that same tolerant nation is willing to throw him to the wolves because they don’t find the declaration of his sexual orientation ‘sincere’.
In defence of the UK Border Agency, Mr Ayelokun could very plausibly be lying just in order to gain asylum here in Britain; however, the damage has already been done. Suppose Mr Ayelokun is trying to con the system, and some brilliant UK judge has sniffed the lies out of the testimonies that were made by his three faux lovers – does the UK Border Agency honestly believe that 170 million Nigerians will bother to sniff out the lies as well?
The case of Olalekan Ayelokun has received little publicity; however, even the tiniest amount of publicity should be more than enough to conjure up a lynch mob at Abuja’s International Arrivals terminal. Perhaps Theresa May is unaware, but her government is only days away from taking a man who has now publicly professed his homosexuality and sending him to a place in which a man who acts ‘flamboyantly’ can earn one year in prison just for breathing too loudly.
Whether or not Mr Ayelokun has lied about his homosexuality – although evidence suggests that he hasn’t – by deporting him, the UK Border Agency is condemning the man to imprisonment, or even death, upon arrival. The immigration judge who ruled against Olalekan Ayelokun must be on cloud nine at the moment, having successfully sifted through the lies in order to kick one more immigrant out of his ‘tolerant’ nation. Will he be equally as pleased with himself when Ayelokun’s name turns up in the obituaries two weeks from now?
In 2010, David Cameron stated that all African LGBT refugees should be granted asylum in the UK if they have a “well-founded fear of persecution”. In fact, the UK Border Agency itself recognises that under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, any individual who has left their country and is unable to return due to a fear of persecution based upon their “race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group” is eligible to claim asylum in the UK.
Given the almost unanimous consensus of the Nigerian people that homosexuality is unethical, the chances are pretty good that Olalekan Ayelokun will not only be persecuted after deportation – but, more than likely, he’ll end up dead. The UK has already applied pressure towards the Nigerian government to end its appalling level of LGBT discrimination to no avail; therefore, what can be done to save the lives of this minority group, other than simply to grant them asylum?
In truth, it’s a very delicate issue that requires much more attention at Westminster – especially when taking into account that only around 19% of those who apply for asylum in the UK actually receive it. What happens to the other 81%? Are their situations as dire as that of the soon-to-be deported Mr Ayelokun?
UK citizens undeniably take for granted the unprecedented level of social freedoms with which they enjoy – yet if Britain wishes to talk the talk, it must also walk the walk. The UK Border Agency and its ‘standard’ deportation procedures are unknowingly condemning men like Olalekan Ayelokun to their deaths every day – and although it may not bode well with Theresa May to have that many more refugees walking London’s streets, the time has never been more vital for a serious discussion surrounding immigration reform – if not to save the lives of minorities such as Olalekan Ayelokun, then at least to demonstrate Britain’s supposed moral integrity.