In less than 24 hours, more than 2000 people have joined a petition campaign started on Change.org calling on the Home Office to halt the deportation of Robert Segwanyi to Uganda, where he was imprisoned and tortured for being gay.
Segwanyi is scheduled for deportation on Thursday,18 August, 2011 on Kenya Airways KQ410 which leaves Heathrow Airport at 20:00.
"Robert has been badly represented, which is largely why his case has hit a crisis point," said Paul Canning, a blogger at LGBT Asylum News who launched the campaign on Change.org. "The UK authorities are also being completely unreasonable. There is plenty of evidence Robert is gay and -- of course -- that Uganda is unsafe."
Uganda's government continues to threaten gays and lesbians with the infamous "kill the gays" bill, which if passed would make being gay or lesbian a crime punishable by death. While the bill died at the end of the last Parliament in May, Uganda's government appears willing to resurrect the measure sometime in August.
Gays and lesbians are regularly arrested and tortured in Uganda, and according to LGBT Asylum News Segwanyi was arrested in 2010 and tortured for being gay. He eventually escaped to the United Kingdom, where he applied for asylum two weeks after his arrival.
John Bosco, one of the few gay men to return to the United Kingdom after being deported to Uganda, met Robert before he was in Haslar detention centre (near Portsmouth) and has remained in phone contact.
"It's a really bad time for him and as a gay Ugandan, I know how hard it is to be gay in Uganda as I was arrested and tortured by police," Bosco told LGBT Asylum News. "Many people have been beaten by the public as soon as you have been labelled being gay. When I was deported by the British, you handed me back to government officers and this is what exactly happened to me. I was beaten up really badly. Robert is in tears and terrified."
A UK immigration judge denied Segwanyi's asylum appeal, claiming Uganda poses no threat to gays and lesbians.
On Tuesday, Canning started an additional petition on Change.org asking Kenya Airways to refuse to let Segwanyi board his flight. Pilots for Air France refused to fly Joseph Kaute to Cameroon, where he faced five years in prison for being gay. Canning hopes this last-minute campaign will potentially spare Robert's life.
"I hope Immigration officials do the right thing and let Robert Segwanyi stay in the United Kingdom," said Paul Canning. "But if they don't, then I hope Kenya Airways refuses to fly Robert Segwanyi because Robert's safety is in jeopardy if he is deported to Uganda."
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