Two women facing deportation by the UK Border Agency to Sierra Leone and The Gambia are at risk of persecution in their home countries because they refuse to carry out Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), according to a human rights group.
In Somalia, 97.9% of women aged between 15 and 49 are affected by the brutal practice, in Guinea 95.6%, in Sierra Leone 94%, in Egypt 91.1%, in Eritrea 88.7%, and in Mali 85.2% of the female population undergo FGM.
Campaign group Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) will hold a demonstration in support of Josephine Komeh and Maimuna Jawo outside the Home Office in Westminster, central London, from 12pm-1pm on Tuesday.
Ms Komeh has been told she will be deported to Sierra Leone on Wednesday 24 July from Heathrow Airport.
MFJ claims she was previously “brutally beaten and tortured for her refusal to cut” in Sierra Leone.
The group says: “Protecting women & girls against FGM absolutely means protecting the right to refuse to do FGM. Yet in the clamber by the main political parties to blame immigrants for the economic and social crisis, both principles and people are too readily dispensed with.
“Josephine Komeh (Sierra Leone) and Maimuna Jawo (the Gambia) were both chosen by their elders as next-in-line to carry out FGM for their communities, and without choice they were trained for this task.
“They know how FGM can kill girls; they know they are expected to do torture; they know the weeks of recovery, have seen the blood, felt the pain and have hated it.”
Along with Female Genital Mutilation, for gay women across Africa, many will also be at risk of suffering the double trauma of “corrective rape” – a crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual or gender orientation.
The problem has become particularly acute in South Africa. The body of a 26-year-old lesbian was found murdered and sexually mutilated in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, earlier this month.
MFJ says the two FGM asylum cases its dealing with illustrates the widespread alleged operational failures of the Home Office and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) when it comes to protecting vulnerable asylum seekers.
The group has repeatedly accused UKBA of trying to deport LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where they face homophobic persecution.
It was after Green MP Caroline Lucas and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell raised concerns about the conduct of UKBA officials following a PinkNews.co.uk interview with Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant.
Mr Bryant had robustly defended the Home Office and UKBA. Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, the Labour MP said: “My experience thus far is that I have not known a decision [to] go in the wrong direction in the end.”
However, Mr Bryant’s comments were met with dismay.
“Contrary to what is claimed, the asylum system is still continuing to fail LGBT refugees,” Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk. “It is rigged to reject as many asylum claimants as possible. Many are imprisoned in detention centres, despite being innocents who have committed no crime. Others are fast-tracked, which gives them no time to prepare a proper asylum application.”
According to the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), 98-99% of claims made by LGBT asylum seekers were rejected in 2010 – compared to 73% for claims made on other grounds.