Posting on a Tanzanian web message board, translated from Swahili: one of many abusive and threatening posts about Edson Cosmas, gay activist threatened with deportation to Tanzania
Edson “Eddy” Cosmas is a young gay man from Tanzania (TZ) facing imminent deportation from the UK where he applied for, but was denied, asylum. He is an activist whose case is well-known internationally, and the abuse and death threats directed against him on the Internet make it clear he will face death or certain persecution if he is sent back.
Because there is little up to date country guidance about human rights abuses against LGBT people in TZ, the Home Office have decided it is a safe enough country for LGBT people; they base this on the fact that there are few documented cases of prosecution under TZ’s anti homosexual laws (up to 25 years imprisonment); this is true, instead, LGBT people are frequently arrested under prostitution, indecency and vagrancy laws. LGBT people in TZ are subjected to harassment, violence, beatings, discrimination and torture - all with the sanction of the state who do nothing to protect LGBT people from abuse.
On 25th May, Movement for Justice received a reply from a gay activist in TZ in response to our search for people who can talk about the real, lived experience of LGBT people in TZ. Below are extracts from his response, unfortunately we cannot disclose this source’s name publicly because it would endanger his life. We hope to organise telephone interviews as long as his anonymity can be protected.
“Edson will face a lot of trouble (beaten, or death) if he will be returned back to Tanzania. Tanzania is not safe at all, especial for gays. Edson Cosmas who was publicized in magazine and documented in some websites in UK and most of the people here in Tanzania heard about him and main discussion is negative thought so for him it will not safe
I had experience some cases concern gay people who had been deported back to Tanzania, when they arrive at the airport some conservative people and religious who hate the gays are just waited outside the airport with slogan of disdain and stigmatize the person and also the police are usually waiting for them to arrest, absolutely. Edson has become quite well known because of the campaign to stop his deportation this will make him to be arrested.”
Eddy’s case is a test of the UK governments commitment to the protection of lesbian and gay people fleeing persecution, a commitment legally enshrined in the Supreme Court ruling last summer which ruled that LGBT people could no longer be sent back to countries where they face persecution on the basis that you can ‘hide’ your sexuality. This decision is being regularly flouted by UKBA, Home Office officials and decision makers who instead of telling LGBT people to be ‘discreet’ have switched to demanding impossible ‘proofs’ from the individual that they are gay and using lack of country information to say that its probably safe.
“The consideration of Edson’s claim appears to be a textbook example of how not to judge a gay asylum claim. He is well-known as gay by a large number of people who have worked with him to submit evidence about his sexuality because they know the system is adversarial, but to no effect.
Simply put: if Edson’s case isn’t waved through then what cases would be? Many of those who work with LGBT asylum seekers believe that the attitude of border agents has shifted now they cannot say ‘go home and be discrete’ anymore. Instead they say ‘you’re not gay’. Paul Canning writing for LGBT Asylum News
Wide speculation abounded at the time of the Supreme Court decision that its ruling would open the ‘flootgates’ to asylum seekers falsely claiming to be gay. This has not happened because the fact is, gay asylum seekers find it hard to come out as gay in the asylum process because a well founded fear that if they declare their sexuality publicly in the asylum process and are still deported, they face certain death in countries where homosexuality is illegal and societal abuse is widespread. Anyone who is not truly gay would not see claiming homosexuality as an ‘easy’ option. In fact, LGBT asylum seekers are MORE likely to be deported from the UK than other asylum seekers (source, stonewall report). This reality is illustrated starkly in Eddy’s case…
“Whether or not the Home Office believe Eddy is a gay man, it is an indisputable fact that he is now internationally known to be gay, we know his case is being discussed in Tanzania itself and he has received death threats because of that. If Eddy is deported to Tanzania, the UK immigration authorities and government will be guilty of murder
While countries like Uganda and Iran are receiving widespread publicity about their persecution of LGBT people, many other countries not so well known for human rights abuses or who have friendly relations with the UK are being ignored. Eddy’s case is the perfect opportunity for the UK to make clear that persecution of LGBT people anywhere in the world is not acceptable and that Britain will become a beacon of freedom
If the UK proceed on a track of deportation for Eddy, we call on other nations to step forward and offer Eddy the protection and safety he needs.” Karen Doyle (Movement for Justice)
Edson Cosmas is known across the world as a gay activist
Over 700 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.
Signatories include Peter Tatchell, John McDonnell MP, the Mayor of Richmond, California, and organisations 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, organisations in Italy have been faxing their embassies.
In London petitioning rallies have been held in Brixton, Whitechapel and Old Compton street - over 1700 petition signatures have been gathered.
Timeline for Eddy on Fast Track - an inhumane and unjust system
Mon 9th May 2011: Eddy attends initial screening interview at the Home Office in Croydon; he submits claim for asylum based on sexual orientation. He is taken into detention, removed to Harmondsworth detention centre.
Fri 13th May 2011: Eddy starts a gruelling, adversarial interview process while being held in detention. He is appointed a solicitor he has never met before who only has 30minutes to get to know Eddie.
Mon 16th May 2011: Interview continues, after 1 week in detention Edson is confused & scared, he has become even more scared over the weekend, feels he is being tested, cannot hold on to what had happened on Friday 13th.
Wed 18th May 2011: The decision: key points are all based on confusion displayed by Eddy in the interview process (inability to remember details, timeline etc) taken, not as a natural response to being wrongly imprisoned or an expression of someone who is traumatised; but as meaning he lacks ‘credibility’,. Decision also stated that TZ really was not that bad for LGBT people, citing a quote from one TZ bishop as ‘key’ evidence. All witness statements from Eddy’s friends& fellow MFJ members are completely dismissed.
Mon 23rd May 2011: Eddy is examined by a doctor from Medical Justice who has been asked to provide a medico-legal report for Edson’s appeal. Report cannot be completed until 31st May 2011 (1 weeks time)
Tue 24th May: Eddy has psychological assessment. With less than one days notice the assessment cannot be carried out in a private room. Psychologist gathers enough information & observations to provide an interim report stating clearly that Eddy was not fit to appear on his own behalf at an appeal, that his mental health is deteriorating in detention and that she needed at least two more sessions to be able to complete the assessment. Eddy’s appeal hearing is scheduled for 26th May
Wed 25th May: Today is spent trying to finalise Edson’s witness statement, gathering other evidence and ensuring witnesses could attend, key witnesses, including an ex partner could not attend at such short notice. Gay activist in Tanzania gets in touch to say it is not at all safe for eddy to go back.
Thu 26th Mar: Edson’s appeal hearing - application made to take Eddy off fast track and adjourn the hearing so medical and psychological assessments could be completed, death threats from Tanzania could be translated and two key witnesses could attend. Judge S Chana, disregarded all this & refused to end Eddy’s detention or adjourn the hearing, he is subjected to almost two hours of gruelling cross examination.
Here is a summary of his case:
Edson Cosmas is a gay man who was born in Tanzania in 1982.
In Tanzania, sexual relations between men are criminalized under the penal code, Section 154 and 257 and punishable with up to 30 year imprisonment.
Throughout his life in Tanzania, Edson experienced beatings, stoning and other assaults for his sexual orientation. His family disowned him, in part to protect themselves from persecution.
In 2006, in order to distance him, his family helped him escape to Britain, where he lived as an undocumented immigrant for several years.
For the past year, he has been an active member of Movement for Justice, a civil rights organization that has been fighting to win asylum for LGBT refugees in Britain. MFJ has been successful in winning asylum for a number of political and LGBT refugees, which inspired Edy to make the fight for himself.
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.
On 9th May, 2011 Edson Cosmas went to the Home Office in Croydon to submit his initial claim for asylum in Britain and to go to a screening interview. At the end of the interview, Eddy was stunned to be told that he was going to be taken into detention.
Edy was interrogated by immigration officers for over 20 hours over 2 days, without an attorney or representative present.
On May 18, 2011 the Home Office issued a ruling denying Edy asylum.
If Edy returns to Tanzania, he will face imprisonment, torture and possible death, which has been the fate of many other LGBT people in Tanzania.
More information is available on the Movement for Justice Website at: http://www.movementforjustice.org./