Government to face legal action by returned asylum-seeker

Gay man's deportation to Uganda is overturned by High Court judge. Emily Dugan reports

The Home Office is facing legal action after it forcibly deported a gay Ugandan asylum-seeker when his case was still under review. John Bosco Nyombi is now seeking damages against the Government after British judges ruled that his removal was "manifestly unlawful" and ordered his return.

The case will embarrass Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, over its suggestion that casual cruelty and inefficiency are at the heart of the British asylum system.

Speaking for the first time since arriving back in the UK, Mr Nyombi told the IoS: "The last year has been torture. I've never done anything wrong and what the Home Office did was illegal. All the things I went through are because of them."

The 38-year-old originally fled to Britain in 2001, fearing that being gay – which in Uganda can result in life imprisonment or even death – put his life in danger. He had an outstanding application for a judicial review on his case when he was taken by four security men and bundled on to a flight to Kampala on 18 September 2008. When he tried to resist and ask for a lawyer, the British removal officers allegedly dragged him by the handcuffs and struck him in the groin and shoulder.

Just two days earlier, Mr Nyombi's face had been on the front page of a Ugandan national newspaper "outing"him as a homosexual and reporting on his fight to stay in the UK. Within moments of his arrival in Kampala, he was abandoned by the British officers who had accompanied him on the flight, leaving him to be interrogated by border police who had seen the article and wanted to arrest him.

He managed to escape a first arrest after paying a bribe. The former careworker then endured six months in hiding before the Home Secretary secured his release, twice getting caught and put into prison where he was violently beaten by both staff and inmates for his sexuality.

On hearing the circumstances of Mr Nyombi's removal from the UK, a deputy High Court judge, Sir George Newman, said the Home Office was guilty of "a grave and serious breach" of the law. The judge also ruled that Mr Nyombi had been "deliberately misled" on the day of his removal. He was told that he was being taken from Tinsley House removal centre "for an interview". Instead he was taken to Gatwick airport. The guards gave him no opportunity to contact friends or lawyers, even though Home Office rules state he should have 72 hours' notice to allow time for calls.

In a final insult, when Mr Nyombi finally arrived back in the UK on 6 March, he spent three days being held in immigration detention because of a "miscommunication". This was despite an arrangement made with the Home Office that he would stay with friends following his ordeal.

Mr Nyombi, who was known as "Mr X" while his lawyers fought to bring him back to the UK, has now won his asylum appeal and is back in Southampton staying with a friend. Once his immigration papers come through, his old job as a carer in a local nursing home is waiting for him.

Nick Armstrong, Mr Nyombi's barrister at Matrix Chambers, said: "It is very rare to have the Home Secretary ordered to return someone. It happened here because of the quite extraordinary catalogue of errors. The Home Office used a policy which was unlawful. It really could not have gone more wrong, and betrays a worryingly casual attitude towards matters of fundamental rights, including access to lawyers."

After fleeing his country, fighting a seven-year immigration battle and suffering a further six months in Uganda in fear of his life, safety has come at a great cost for Mr Nyombi. "I think I've lost a lot of things," he said. "I've lost time and I have been stopped from working. I want to rest now, I want peace. For the last five years, I've been wondering what will happen tomorrow. For the first time, I won't have to worry about that."

Despite his ordeal, he is careful not to tar Britain with the mistakes of its government. "Although I've had a rough time, I'll never say it was Britain that did it to me, but always the Home Office. Without the friends I have here, I wouldn't have survived."

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice, said: "The sad truth is that without the intervention of a High Court judge, he would be there now. This appalling case illustrates how vital it is that adequate scrutiny is maintained."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor