Edson “Eddy” Cosmas is a young black gay man who comes from Tanzania in east Africa. Like many of us and many of our families and friends he is part of this diverse, integrated community that has links around the world, especially to former British colonies like Tanzania. He has lived and studied in London for several years and he spent time in Manchester as a child while his father was studying there.
None of the obstacles facing poor, bright ambitious young people including the loss of EMA, the university fee hikes or the shortage of job opportunities in the fields he is qualified to work in have broken Eddy’s spirit or dampened his determination to succeed. Eddy is the kind of person a mother would be proud to call son, a neighbour would welcome to their community. At the same time Eddie is a leader. As a member of Movement for Justice, Eddie has lead campaigns against racism, anti-gay bigotry and for immigrant rights.
Deportation is Death
As a gay man living in Britain Eddy can live and love openly, can proudly live as himself. In Tanzania, he would be tortured, and persecuted for his sexual orientation.A number of openly gay and lesbian youth in Tanzania have been tortured and murdered for speaking out against anti-gay legal and cultural prejudices and discrimination.Eddy would love to be able to go back to Tanzania but under the current circumstances a trip home even just to visit family and friends would not only risk Eddy’s life, but would also endanger the lives of those close to him.
Eddy, like so many political refugees in Britain, campaigns tirelessly to bring the kind of democratic freedoms we take for granted here to his native land including ending the anti-gay policies and practices in Tanzania while at the same time waging his own personal struggle to get the British Home Office to follow the law and grant him asylum. Eddy like so many refugees is as much British as he is Tanzanian.
On 9th May Eddy, went to the Home Office in Croydon to submit his initial claim for asylum in Britain and to go to a screening interview. British law requires the Government to grant asylum to anyone who is gay and would face political persecution for being gay if they were returned to the country they were born in. At the end of the interview, Eddy was stunned to be told that he was going to be taken into detention.
Gay Activists in the UK
Eddy’s detention is part of an anti-gay and racist policy of the Home Office aimed at circumventing a Supreme Court decision that requires the Home Office to treat gay rights activists as political leaders, no different from any other refugee fighting for democracy and basic human rights. The attitude and practice of the Home Office has more in common with the right-wing religious bigots and fundamentalists who treat gay sexuality as an aberration which can be easily altered or repressed.
The Home Office refuses to treat the fight of, in particular, gay activists from Africa who are on the forefront of the struggles against despotism, religious fundamentalism and for human rights, as political leaders. The level of the Home Offices blatant racist and anti-gay disregard for gay refugee political leaders who deserve to be treated as heroes, is not only shocking and unacceptable, but it is also something we can stop.
The British Supreme Court ruled months ago to overturn the old absurd and blatantly anti-gay British immigration policy of telling gay people who would be tortured or persecuted if they were deported back to their country of origin, that they should “just stay in the closet” or “act straight”, but front line immigration officers have done everything in their power to undermine the new Court ruling.
Lesbians and gay asylum seekers are asked to “prove” that they are gay; to present names of sexual partners, graphic descriptions of their sexual acts, pictures of themselves at gay bars and letters from friends and family swearing to their sexual identity. Many lesbian and gay asylum seekers have put up with humiliating physical examinations, insulting and ridiculous accusations of self torture, and gruelling ten hour or more interviews about every aspect of the most intimate details of their personal life to “prove they are gay and in danger of persecution”.
Because many gay activists have persevered and successfully won asylum – almost always through an appeal process before a public Tribunal – the Home Office has resorted to a new set of racist and anti-gay tactics to expel African gay activists before they have the opportunity to attain a good solicitor and present their case.
Openly gay activists like Eddy, who should be granted asylum without question, are now being “fast-tracked” – held in detention with no right to secure a lawyer of their choice and set up for a series of hastily scheduled sham hearings that are certain to result in quick deportations. We cannot allow the Home Office to get away with this crime.It’s clear that under the current political climate of immigrant bashing, the Home Office believes that it can cling onto its longstanding racist and anti-gay practices and get away with it.
Getting the Home Office to implement new and progressive immigration policies derived from the struggles of people in the neo-colonies and civil rights movements within Britain has always required mass action. What is at stake in Eddy’s case is so fundamental and important to the cause of freedom and the advancement of democracy and equality both here and in Africa, that it is crucial for us to build the mass action needed to win.
If the Home Office gets away with deporting Eddy, every black and Asian asylum seeker will face even greater danger of being railroaded out of Britain to imprisonment or death. For those of us from Britain and other places who strive everyday to get this society to accept the full and real equality of lesbian and gay men, Eddy’s deportation would represent a real setback for our struggle.
LGBT Activism Worldwide
The courageous and inspiring struggles of the youth in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries who are disproportionately lesbians and gay men, will be set back if Britain hypocritically claims to support these struggles, but then turns around and refuses to offer refuge to the young leaders of these mass movements for democracy and freedom.
Edson is in Britain to escape imprisonment, Tanzania’s anti-gay laws, assault, torture or murder at the hands of the police or anti-gay mobs. In Tanzania, like neighboring Uganda and many other impoverished African countries, the political regime and right-wing religious leaders are whipping up hatred of gay men and lesbians to maintain power and to divide and conquer the movements for democracy.
The struggle for freedom to define one’s own sexuality is necessarily tied to the struggle for greater democracy and secularism.Over the last decade, people from extremely repressive African and Asian countries have formed LGBT groups, creating networks which have reinforced each other across continents and seas, consolidating resistance to anti-gay oppression, not only in their own nations but in Britain, the U.S, and some European nations.
The struggles in Africa and in Asia have won changes in many areas and advanced the struggles for civil rights and human dignity everywhere.
AMNESTY NOW! End this divisive, racist system
Discrimination and prejudice against migrants and refugees is one of the successful policies of the politicians and the rich and powerful who need to scapegoat someone for the economic crisis created by the banks and billionaires.
Racism is the single most important divide-and-rule policy utilized by the Government to keep us from standing together and fighting the cuts. We need unity to protect all our living standards and the new diverse and integrated Britain that is home to all of us.
Raids and deportations undermine and threaten everyone of African, Caribbean, Asian, Latin American, Arab and other non-white origin in this country, no matter how long our families have lived and worked here.
Wherever we are, it is essential that we fight against anti-immigrant prejudice, racism, the oppression of women and discrimination against the lesbian/gay community if we want to live in a fully democratic society based on real equality and justice.
When our communities are discriminated against, oppressed or victimised,we are denied our basic democratic and human equality. When one set of religious or cultural values is imposed on everyone, the whole society is divided against itself.
We can win support around the demand AMNESTY NOW, and can force an end to the divisive persecution of immigrants if we mobilize. All can then live in safety and contribute fully to this society and we can end the police state-style rule of the immigration authorities, close the detention centres and stop deportation.