Innocent Uwimana, a gay man from Rwanda who came to the UK 20 years ago, reacts to the UK government vowing to move forward with its plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda – even after the Supreme Court deemed it unlawful.
WORDS BY INNOCENT UWIMANA
I was deeply shocked when I learned that the UK government was planning to deport LGBTQIA+ people seeking asylum to Rwanda knowing that they would be persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I have faced discrimination in Rwanda, I know how it destroys the lives of thousands of people. Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised but there are no laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people. Every day LGBTQAI+ people face discrimination and violence such as arbitrary arrests, forced marriage, beatings, humiliation and denied access to education and employment.
Not only are LGBTQIA+ people rejected, tortured and discriminated against by family and society, but the government doesn’t do anything to help them. This is why the Rwandan LGBTQIA+ community was horrified when we learned that the British government was planning to send people to Rwanda.
On 15 November, I was delighted to learn that the UK’s highest court had ruled that Rwanda was not a safe country to which the government could send people seeking asylum to. The LGBTQIA+ community in Rwanda was ecstatic, we were glad that LGBTQIA+ people seeking asylum were not going to be subjected to the suffering that we have endured and that some of us still living in Rwanda continue to endure.
However, our sense of happiness and relief was quickly diminished when we learned that the British government is prepared to do everything in its power to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda.
When I came to the UK twenty years ago, the government was all about respecting human rights, including the rights of peoples seeking asylum who had suffered discrimination (such as LGBTQIA+ people), so it’s a great disappointment to learn that the current government doesn’t show any concern about human rights and the future of the people they want to send to Rwanda.
My hope is that the UK is a country governed by the rule of law and that British institutions will do all they can to stop the government sending human beings to a country where they will suffer discrimination and perpetual suffering.
The UK government should reflect more on its policy, hear out and take into account the public sentiment and what the civil society and other people representing vulnerable groups are saying. Most people seeking protection are fleeing for their lives and they need help, not punishment. I do hope that LGBTQIA+ people seeking safety will not be sent to Rwanda to face discrimination.
LGBTQIA+ people seeking support through the asylum and immigration system can find resources and information on Rainbow Migration’s website here.