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On Tuesday, a bisexual Jamaican man was denied asylum in the U.K. after a judged agreed with a previous ruling claiming he was “dishonest” about his sexuality.
Orashia Edwards, who has been living in Leeds for the past 14 years, applied for asylum to escape the escalating violence towards members of the LGBT community which continues to plague Jamaica. In December, Edwards’ request was denied after a judge “made a series of findings highly critical of the applicant’s credibility” claiming Edwards was “dishonest” about his status as a bisexual man. Despite not releasing any information used in justifying their decision, British immigration officials denied Edwards’ challenge to stay in the U.K. and were set to deport him Wednesday. According to Pink News, Edward’s British Airways flight was cancelled, and he is currently in London submitting new evidence in his case.
Outside the courtroom following the ruling, Edwards told reporters he would “prefer to be a dead man than get on a flight to die. I have nowhere to go.”
In 2006, Time Magazine named Jamaica the most homophobic place on earth, and violence against the country’s LGBT community has yet to subside. In August 2013, a gay man was stabbed to death and set on fire inside his car in Montego Bay. In July of that year, a mob stabbed a non-gender conforming teen to death. Edwards’ case has been picked up by national newspapers in Jamaica, and his deportation would mean being both prominent and out in one of the most homophobic countries in the world.
According to Leeds for Change, Edwards is now part of the 98-99 percent of asylum seekers in the U.K. denied asylum on the basis of sexual orientation. Since hearing of his story, the organization has actively advocated on Edwards behalf. In January, the group managed to cancel the flight meant to initially deport Edwards and have since staged multiple protests and started an online petition to get the decision reversed.
Tuesday’s decision follows a string of accusations that the UK’s Home Office, which processes the country’s asylum claims, is homophobic in its selection process forcing asylum seekers to prove their sexuality through hours of invasive questioning. In February, the Observer reported that a bisexual man was interrogated for five hours and repeatedly asked questions such as: “When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection?” and “What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?”
A lesbian from Uganda said her Home Office interview left her so scarred she was prescribed antidepressants she still uses over a year later. “He asked me how could I know I was a lesbian if I had never slept with a man,” she said. “He kept asking me where I had sex with my female partners. I felt that he had established in his mind that I was lying.”
Investigations into the allegations reveal dozens more cases of similar instances of interrogation by the Home Office where LGB aslyum seekers were asked questions ranging from ‘Was it loving sex or rough?’ to ‘So you had intercourse with him not just blow jobs?’. One lesbian was forced to explain why she did not attend a gay pride event, and another was told she was not a lesbian because she didn’t look gay enough.
As Leeds for Change indicates, almost all of the asylum seekers who are forced to endure this process are denied asylum anyway and have to return to country’s where they fear violence, persecution and, in some places, death for their LGBT status. Following Tuesday’s decision, Edwards could be among that number.
“What they are doing is they are sending my son to die, and I will never forgive them for that,” Edwards’ mother said following the decision. “I will never forgive this government for that.” (HT: The Advocate)
Shannon Greenwood is an intern at ThinkProgress.