A gay Nigerian facing imminent deportation said last night he feared he would be killed if he was sent home. Campaigners supporting Olalekan Ayelokun have petitioned the Home Secretary, Theresa May, not to deport him though his lawyers believe the move could be any day now.
Speaking from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre last night, Mr Ayelokun said: "I feel terrible, traumatised. I am very afraid they are going to kill me in Nigeria."
The 34-year-old has been trying to remain in the UK since he overstayed a visiting visa in 2003. But a removal order was made by a judge at Bradford's Immigration Court, who refused to believe that Mr Ayelokun was homosexual despite the testimony of three lovers.
The maximum punishment for same-sex sexual activity in the African nation is 14 years' imprisonment. According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 per cent of residents believe that homosexuality is unacceptable and the country has been widely criticised by human-rights groups for failing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination.
Yesterday Mr Ayelokun's lawyer, Mark Taylor, said he was applying for the case to be heard in the High Court. The solicitor said he faced a "ridiculous" situation of trying to prove to the UK Border Agency that his client was gay: "How judges or the UKBA feel that they are able to assess one's sexuality is utterly beyond me. If they are not prepared to believe him and his sexual partners I am not sure what test they are prepared to accept."
Mr Ayelokun was arrested during one of his regular weekly reports to the Border Agency in Leeds. Last Tuesday he was taken to Colnbrook near Heathrow. "I was terrified when they arrested me," he said. "This immigration centre is like a prison. I am being treated like a criminal. All I want is for them to grant me asylum."
Mr Taylor said that the UKBA accepted that a homosexual man returning to Nigeria would face persecution and his client was now well known though online reports and press cuttings as a gay man: "With respect to the UKBA and the judges here, it is not what they believe to be his sexuality that is important. It is what is believed by those people who persecute and prosecute people in Nigeria for being gay that counts."
The LGBT campaign organisation AllOut has begun an online petition to halt the deportation, pointing out that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said in 2010 that gay refugees from Africa should be granted asylum if they had a "well-founded fear of persecution". Last year he threatened cuts in aid to African nations that continued to mistreat homosexuals.
Yesterday campaigners demonstrated in front of the Home Office to demand a halt to the UK policy of detaining and deporting gay men and women from African countries.
The UK Border Agency said that Mr Ayelokun had lived illegally in the UK since 2003 and had only claimed asylum last year. A spokesman added: "At no point has he been able to provide sufficient evidence of his sexuality and our decision not to grant him asylum has been upheld by an independent immigration judge."
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