Nigerian gay rights activist wins asylum after 13-year battle

 

A Nigerian gay rights activist has won her right to asylum in the UK, 13 years after she arrived in the country.

She had previously been denied asylum twice by the Home Office who accused her of lying that she was a lesbian.

Aderonke Apata said that she had been persecuted in her home country where both male and female same-sex activity is illegal.

She said that she feared for her life if she was deported back to Nigeria.

When she filed for asylum in 2012 the judge claimed she was lying about her sexuality, saying: “What is believed is that you have presented yourself as a lesbian solely to establish a claim for international protection in an attempt to thwart your removal. It is considered that your actions are not genuine and simply a cynical way of gaining status in the UK.”

In 2012 she was also placed in solitary confinement for a week at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire.

Following a campaign on her behalf, which included human rights activist Peter Tatchell, the Home Office reversed its decision earlier this month and granted her permission to stay in the UK.

“I was just crying on the phone with my solicitor when he broke the news to me,” she said. “I must have embarrassed him. I wasn’t assimilating all of the information he was giving to me on the phone as I was crying and singing.”

Peter Tatchell said: “I am delighted that Aderonke has finally won refugee status but outraged that the Home Office took so long and fought so hard to stop her.

“They locked her up without justification, drove her to severe depression and tried ceaselessly to deport her. The asylum system is homophobic and unjust. It needs radical reform.”

The Home Office declined to comment.