Aderonke Apata has finally won the right to stay in the United Kingdom, more than a decade after fleeing persecution in Nigeria. The British government had previously accused Apata, 50, of lying about her sexuality to gain asylum.
She arrived in England in 2004, but didn’t immediately claim asylum on the grounds of her sexuality because, until 2010, LGBT refugees were often returned to their home countries if it was deemed safe for them to live discreetly. (Homosexuality is punishable in Nigeria by up to 14 years in prison. In northern Nigeria, controlled by Boko Haram, gays and lesbians face violence and even execution.)
When she did file for asylum in 2012, the Home Office, the ministry responsible for immigration and security, refused to believe her.
“What is believed is that you have presented yourself as a lesbian solely to establish a claim for international protection in an attempt to thwart your removal,” a judge told her. “It is considered that your actions are not genuine and simply a cynical way of gaining status in the UK.”
Apata said she felt “dehumanized and demeaned” by the allegations, telling href=”https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/14/nigerian-gay-rights-activist-aderonke-apata-wins-uk-asylum-claim-13-year-battle” target=”_blank”>The Guardian, “that was such a ridiculous assertion to make about me,” she told .
Garnering support from notable LGBT rights activists, Apata filed an appeal and earlier this month, the Home Office informed her that her refugee status had been granted.
“I was just crying on the phone with my solicitor when he broke the news to me,” Apata said. “There are many people like me, facing huge insurmountable difficulties navigating the asylum system in the UK. I will continue to do my bit in amplifying the voices of people who can only shout so far.”
Her attorney, Sean Mcloughlin, celebrated Apata’s victory but lamented that it came “after protracted litigation and countless hours of campaigning and legal work.” (Apata also spent a week in solitary confinement in 2012.)
The Home Office has “a long way to come” in regards to LGBT refugee cases, he maintained.