“I’m so happy to be free! Thank you to every one who has fought for me – we still have much to do! In detention you have less rights than in prison, no one should be put through that – now I’m out I will continue to fight for all of my friends who are left behind in detention, gay and straight” Edson Cosmas
On Tuesday 5th July 2011, an Immigration Judge upheld the right of Tanzanian gay activist Edson ‘Eddy’ Cosmas to appeal against the rejection of his asylum claim and agreed that Eddy’s case is ‘not suitable’ for the fast track procedure.
This is a double victory for the growing asylum and immigrant rights movement that Eddy is a part of. In detention Eddy (a member of Movement for Justice) always maintained his struggle as an out gay man, refusing to be quiet about the injustices he saw, and giving interviews from inside detention to Gaydar radio and other press.
Now that he has been released from Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Center he has the time needed to gather evidence in support of his claim and he is also determined to use his freedom to build the movement among his fellow asylum seekers and in the wider community.
Victory for LGBT Asylum Seekers
Winning his freedom is a victory especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) asylum seekers from Tanzania and for the oppressed LGBT community in Tanzania itself, where gay sex is illegal and punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment.
In an attempt to break his spirit and outspokenness, Eddy was subjected to several days of harassment in the run up to his hearing yesterday.
On Saturday he was told that he was to be moved to another detention center, when he protested that he had a hearing on Tuesday he was left with the anxiety and worry of no one telling him what was happening through the weekend.
On Monday evening at 8pm he was told he had a legal meeting, when he went to the room there was no legal meeting. He was told that he was going to be moved, and when he protested he was forcibly taken by 8-10 security guards to Colnbrook center where his phone was taken away from him and he was left in a waiting room with only chairs, no bed, until 5am on Tuesday (the day of his hearing).
He consequently had no sleep and had spent the night terrified that they were trying to deport him.
Eddy Cosmas continues to fight
This abuse has had not demoralised Eddy. He has left Harmondsworth more determined than ever to speak out about his experiences and will very soon be returning to meet with the friends he has made there, encouraging and helping them organise.
“MFJ launched the campaign to ‘Free Eddy’ from the day Edson was detained, and it immediately gained massive support in the black and Asian as well as LGBT communities, leading to several groups taking up the call. Eddy’s fight stands for hundreds, even thousands of people whose only ‘crime’ is to seek freedom.
Worldwide support for Edson Cosmas – internationally known gay activist
Over 7000 online signatures have been gathered in support of Edson from right across Europe & America as well as support from people in Africa, Australia, Canada, China, Turkey and New Zealand. Petition & campaign taken up by Allout and 38degrees.
Signatories include Peter Tatchell, John McDonnell MP, the Mayor of Richmond, California, and organizations including the National Union of Students (NUS) Black Students Campaign, NUS LGBT campaign, Gays without Borders (San Francisco), Skyline High School Gay/Straight Alliance (California), Every One Group (Italy).
Demonstrations have been held for Eddy in London and California, hundreds of petition signatures have been gathered by high school students in the USA, organizations in Italy have been faxing their embassies.
In London petitioning rallies have been held in Brixton, Whitechapel, Stratford and Old Compton street – over 2000 petition signatures have been gathered. Supporters made a splash at London Pride collecting hundreds of signatures.
Brutal UK immigration system exposed
The UK immigration system is known among those who experience it to be brutally cold, rushing through bad decisions, even ‘cut-and-pasting’ refusals; and this knowledge is spreading fast. That’s why over 9000 have signed petitions and taken action online and in the streets.
MFJ held rallies around London – in Brixton, Whitechapel, Stratford and Soho, and demonstrations at the Home Office. Organizations around the world who exist to see Human Rights implemented and not degraded have written, blogged and tweeted and demonstrated.
We thank everyone who has joined this fight so far. It is not over – not for Eddy nor the thousands in detention or living in fear of the border agents. The insanity of this UK system must end. That’s why MFJ calls for Amnesty Now for all immigrants.”