A couple who fled to Sweden to escape anti-gay persecution in Uganda have learnt that a deportation order against one of them has been dropped by migration officials, who were swayed by the death threats the couple received after getting married.

The story of Lawrence Kaala and Jimmy Sserwadda, who fled Uganda separately and were reunited by chance in Sweden, was picked up by Swedish news in January after the couple declared themselves the first gay Ugandans to get married. 

At the time Mr Kaala’s asylum application had failed, and it appeared likely that he would be forced to return to Uganda without his husband.

The news spread internationally and reached Uganda, where their families were harassed and Mr Kaala and Mr Sserwadda were threatened with death should they return.

On Thursday Mr Kaala was told that his appeal on the deportation decision had succeeded, and that given the circumstances he would not be forced to return to Uganda to reapply for asylum, as is usually required.

The Swedish Migration Board decided that Mr Kaala should not be forced to return to Uganda since he would be at risk after having his name and photograph published so widely.

Speaking to The Local, Mr Ssweradda said “It feels great. We’re so relieved that the Migration Board finally realized the truth.”

The media attention on the couple proved to be both a blessing and a curse, as it lead to both the onslaught of death threats and the subsequent dropping of the deportation order against Mr Kaala.

“After our story appeared in English in The Local it began to circulate in Uganda and people started making threats that we would be killed if we returned,” said Mr Sserwadda.

“I think the explosion of media attention made migration officials realize how real the danger was. He couldn’t return after being outed like that.”

Although he and his husband should now be safe from further deportation risks, Mr Sserwadda, who works with a local LGBT charity, was still critical of how the migration system treats others whose stories are not picked up by the media.

“It’s really a lottery. Sometimes the officials involved don’t even believe you’re gay,” he said.

He has pledged to help other LGBT asylum seekers find refuge in Sweden.

Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda, and their parliament is seeking to enact harsher laws which may include the death penalty for “aggravated” homosexuality, such as sex with a minor or “repeat offences”.