A Nigerian man who was due to be deported from the UK last night has been given a temporary reprieve.
Hope Nwachukwu, 33, says he was tortured and forced to watch his sisters being raped in his home country because he is gay.
He is currently being held at Harmondsworth detention centre and was due to be sent home last night but the Home Office has agreed to postpone the deportation until September 28th while his case is investigated.
The coalition government proposed earlier this year that it would end deportations for asylum seekers who have been persecuted for being gay and the Supreme Court recently ruled that gay asylum seekers cannot be told they can live safely in extremely homophobic countries if they are “discreet”.
Conservative MP for Milton Keynes South Iain Stewart intervened in the case last night.
Mr Nwachukwu has been living in Mr Stewart’s constituency and the MP said last night: “I was made aware of Hope’s case this afternoon and was concerned about the reports that he would face severe persecution if returned to Nigeria.
“While I am not in possession of the full details of his case, I am pleased that his immediate deportation has been halted and that the Home Office will make further enquiries.
“I will continue to keep an interest in this matter to ensure that Hope is given a fair hearing and that concerns about persecution are fully investigated.”
Campaigners for Mr Nwachukwu say his case has been viewed with suspicion because he has not been in a relationship since arriving in the UK.
A recent Stonewall report said that “institutional homophobia” was rife in the asylum system and that staff are not given enough training to deal with lesbian, gay and bisexual claimants.
Gay asylum campaigner Paul Canning added: “Whilst it is fantastic news that Hope has a second chance thanks to Mr Stewart’s intervention, it is worrying that his case went this far. In particular that his sexuality was disbelieved just because he is not in a relationship.
“I am concerned that [the UK Border Agency] has changed the line used to refuse asylum and to remove people since the Supreme Court decision from ‘go home and be discreet’ to ‘prove that you are gay’.
“I am aware of a number of others who should have our protection who are still in detention because their sexuality is not believed or for other reasons. The Stonewall report showed high levels of homophobia and ignorance in UK Border Agency and this case shows that the Home Office cannot rely on the Supreme Court decision to tackle that.”
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, Mr Nwachukwu arrived in the UK at the end of 2009 and has spent six months in detention.
He said he knew he was gay from a young age and began a relationship with man but was harassed and attacked by gangs. When he moved to an area called Sasa, his two sisters came to live with him but the family attracted the attention of locals.
Mr Nwachukwu says that one night, a gang burst into their home and raped his sisters before threatening to kill him.
A family friend then helped him get a flight to the UK, where he began working in a warehouse with fake ID. When he was discovered to be working illegally, police referred his case to immigration services and he was detained.
He says he had no idea that he could claim for asylum and fears he will be killed if sent home.