A Nigerian lesbian asylum seeker in the United Kingdom has reportedly attempted to take her own life following moves to deport her home. Nneka Obazee, 34, according to the British online publication Independent ,was scheduled to be flown on a charter flight to Nigeria.
But on finding out what awaited her and her 19-year old stepson,she overdosed on pain medication.
She was subsequently hospitalized. Activist group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants is now fighting her case. A spokesperson for LGSM said: “When Nneka was made aware that she would be returned to Nigeria she was so frightened that she attempted to suicide and took an overdose which demonstrates how dire the situation would be for her if she was returned to Nigeria.”
Ms Obazee went to the UK in March 2013 on a visit with her husband she claimed to be abusive,and stepson. She took the opportunity of the UK trip to run away fr the husband, and reveal her sexuality. Nneka has been living in Manchester in the last four years and is an active member of the cities LGBT+ community, organizing with the migrant group African Rainbow Family. Ms Obazee has had her case rejected by the Home Office and failed two appeals tribunals.
She is currently undergoing a judicial review. “Sexual identity is a very difficult thing to have to ‘prove’, not least when it has been the cause of significant trauma in the past,” LGBTIQ specialist senior caseworker at Asylum Aid, Rajiv Bera, told The Independent. Mr Bera added that he continually represents people who have exhausted their refugee status determination and appeals process without success but “With adequate representation and proper support, the same people have gone on to eventually win their cases”. It is also not uncommon for the same LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to suffer from mental health problems: “By the time they are recognised as refugees, they have experienced the effects of disbelief, destitution and detention, often at a huge cost to their mental health” he said.
Ms Obazee has experienced severe mental health issues, including depression according to LGSM, which she says have been exacerbated by the asylum process. The group have said that since being detained her mental health has worsened and she has suffered a nervous breakdown which has included thoughts of suicide. Last year a report by LGBT charity STONEWALL and UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group found that UK detention centres were poorly equipped to deal with the needs of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
It detailed how LGBT detainees were denied access to HIV and anti-depression medication well as being bullied, harassed or physically attacked by other detainees, and victims said they did not feel protected by detention staff. Leila Zadeh, director of UKLGIG, told The Independent that the organisation was concerned about Ms Obazee’s deportation: “We are concerned that too often people’s sexuality is disbelieved and asylum claims incorrectly refused. It’s also concerning that somebody can be removed from the country when there is a judicial review outstanding.”
A spokesperson for Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants told The Independent: “Only two months ago we joyfully celebrated with our friend Nneka at London LGBT+ Pride and now all we can do is watch powerlessly as she is railroaded through an unjust and inhumane immigration system to face certain danger in Nigeria.”
In 2013 Nigeria made same-sex marriage illegal and according to a report from Human Rights Watch the law is “used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimise abuses against LGBT people”. Anti-gay laws in Nigeria can lead to punishments including 14 years in prison to death by stoning and LGBTQ people are frequently faced with violence due to their orientation and gender identity. Ms Obazee is currently in Yarls Wood. A spokesperson for the Home Office told The Independent: “We do not routinely comment on operational activity.”