Asylum seeker faces deportation to homophobic Zimbabwe because officials don’t think she ‘seems bisexual’ enough

Patrick Kelleher November 17, 2020
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Ireland asylum seeker LGBT+

Constance was told to return to Zimbabwe despite the fact that she fled anti-LGBT+ discrimination and is an essential worker (Envato Elements)

A healthcare worker who fled anti-LGBT+ discrimination in Zimbabwe has said her application for asylum in Ireland was rejected because she didn’t “seem bisexual”.

Constance, whose name was changed to protect her identity, told CNN that she fled Zimbabwe because of widespread anti-LGBT+ sentiment – but she was left heartbroken when Ireland’s Department of Justice denied her application for asylum, despite the fact that she is a frontline worker.

The nursing home worker was told that her reason for leaving Zimbabwe did not add up as she did not “seem bisexual”.

Constance appealed her application on humanitarian grounds after she was handed her first rejection. Through this process, she was able to provide evidence of her good character and conduct in Ireland.

She believed that her job as a healthcare worker in a nursing home would strengthen her application, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Constance also supplied a “glowing reference” from her employer, who told asylum officials that her work was essential.

Despite this, she had her hopes dashed when she received a letter on 28 October telling her that she would be deported.

Asylum seekers working on the frontline of the pandemic are being ‘chased away’ to the countries they fled.

Another woman, named only as Lily, found herself in a similar position to Constance.

Lily, who also fled Zimbabwe in 2016 due to anti-LGBT+ sentiment, works in a nursing home in Dublin. She was left heartbroken when she received a letter telling her that she no longer had “permission to remain in the state” and that she must leave voluntarily or face deportation.

Lily told CNN: “They are saying the frontline workers are the heroes… but behind closed doors they are chasing us away and kicking us back [to the counters we fled].”

Both women chose to keep their full names secret due to fears that their asylum applications could be affected if authorities discovered they had spoken out.

LGBT+ rights in Zimbabwe continue to lag far behind other countries, with gay sex still illegal, while same-sex marriage is banned under the constitution.

Queer Zimbabweans have no legal protection from discrimination, violence and harassment, while LGBT+ people are often forced to remain closeted to protect their safety.

Ireland’s system of accommodating asylum seekers has been repeatedly criticised by human rights bodies.

Ireland has repeatedly faced stinging criticism from international human rights bodies for its treatment of asylum seekers. 

Refugees who arrive in Ireland are accommodated in a system known as “direct provision”. The system was introduced in 2000 to provide shelter for asylum seekers for six months while they waited for the state to make a decision on their claim.

More than 20 years on, the system remains in place, while a 2018 report found that residents were spending an average of 23 months in these centres.

Many of these “direct provision” centres are old hotels, B&Bs and other buildings where families often live together in tiny rooms, while single people are often forced to share bedrooms with complete strangers.

Amnesty International has called the system “an ongoing human rights scandal” – yet the Irish government has been slow to react, and the system remains in place.


More: direct provision, Ireland, Zimbabwe

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