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"They are sending my son to die and I will never forgive them for that."
July 3, 2014 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Orashia Edwards, a bisexual man seeking asylum in the UK due to persecution in Jamaica based on his sexual orientation, has had his petition denied and was scheduled to be deported yesterday. The immigration court concluded Orashia has been “dishonest” about his sexuality, but has not stated why. Speculation about the reasons includes the existence of his 14-month-old daughter, or the possibility that his responses to some of the detailed and intrusive questions sometimes asked of bisexual asylum seekers in the UK were not persuasive enough. It may just be that “the box one needs to fit in to ‘deserve’ support and asylum is so tiny as to be almost non-existent for bisexual people.”

While sex acts between women are legal in Jamaica, the country still has laws on the books punishing sex between men with up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Orashia’s flight to Jamaica yesterday was cancelled, possibly due to public outcry including online activism such as the #DefendOrashia twitter hashtag. It is unknown when his deportation will now take place.
posted by Stacey (41 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ugh. How horrible - I hope he is able to win his asylum. Jamaica is terrible when it comes to non-straight persecution, and I would most certainly want to get out if I had the means to.
posted by symbioid at 6:27 AM on July 3


Let us remember that a bogus asylum-seeker is not equivalent to a criminal; and that an unsuccessful asylum application is not equivalent to a bogus one. - Kofi Annan
posted by travelwithcats at 6:39 AM on July 3 [23 favorites]


Speculation about the reasons includes the existence of his 14-month-old daughter,

Well that's maddening. I understand that there are issues that make LGBT asylum claims more difficult to prove and adjudicate than a claim based on an obvious outward characteristic. I understand the government's need to ascertain whether an applicant actually belongs to the persecuted group, although I doubt that many countries are actually doing that in a respectful and appropriate way for LGBT applicants.

Even giving the them that benefit of the doubt here, I sincerely, sincerely hope that it was denied for something other than him having a child. Claiming that someone isn't bisexual because they have had a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex fails the most very basic test of understanding what bisexuality even is. Bisexual erasure is obviously a real thing, though, so I doubt my hopes will turn out to be fulfilled.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:44 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]




That list of questions is awful. Friends of mine went through a similarly, though less intensely, intrusive questioning during their application for a spousal visa in the US -- deeply personal questions to try and uncover evidence of a fake application. The extra suspicion and misconceptions about bisexuality must be maddening.

While sex acts between women are legal in Jamaica, the country still has laws on the books punishing sex between men with up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The risk for open LGBT people in Jamaica is violence and discrimination, not prison. (Though as that link suggests, things on that front might be changing somewhat. The laws are up for review soon and there has been a new tone in the debate, but it remains a very difficult situation.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]




“The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we consider every application on its individual merits,” a Home Office spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk.

Yeah, just not if you're queer. Well, really, the Home Office tries its hardest not to grant anyone asylum, but they seem to be extra good at deciding queer people are straight or not at risk of being murdered in their countries of origin, despite that being obvious bullshit.
posted by hoyland at 7:01 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


That list of questions is awful. Friends of mine went through a similarly, though less intensely, intrusive questioning during their application for a spousal visa in the US -- deeply personal questions to try and uncover evidence of a fake application. The extra suspicion and misconceptions about bisexuality must be maddening.

Was either of them non-WASP? We went through the process about three years ago when the US was coming out of the Great Recession and they didn't ask nearly as many personal questions as I thought they would. Just how we met, the circumstances behind our meeting and what not. Nothing silly like what brand of toothpaste she uses.

But me? I'm about as WASP as WASPs get and she's only half-Jewish so we're pretty invisible backpack as far as couples go. We also submitted about 700 pages of photos, phone records, IM chats because we paid a really good lawyer a fuckton of money.
posted by Talez at 7:04 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


There was a case a couple of months back where they'd split a girl's asylum claim from that of the rest of her family because she'd turned 18 before they got round to looking at the family's application, seemingly purely because that made it easy to deport her (a kid! who hadn't finished school! on her own!).
posted by hoyland at 7:05 AM on July 3


Because if there are two issues that modern Britain is adept at tackling, it's bisexuality and immigration.....

Sigh. The direction that Europe is headed does not give me much hope that things like this are going to get better anytime soon.
posted by schmod at 7:06 AM on July 3


The Home Office's asylum unit has a similar credo to what the execrably named Jobcentre Plus has evolved into. Their job isn't really to process claims, it's to find any potential reason to deny one unless there is a huge PR disaster in the offing.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:08 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Was either of them non-WASP?

Yes. At the time we all assumed that the interracial thing was a big part of why they got the extra special attention; seeing this list reminded me of their experience and how unpleasant it was for them.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:14 AM on July 3


(And to emphasize, their experience was not as bad as the transcript in the FPP, presumably because they were heterosexual.)
posted by Dip Flash at 7:17 AM on July 3


(I don't want to derail, but, man, Australia looks bad by comparison).
posted by Mezentian at 7:53 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


mezentian--I don't think mentioning Australia is a derail at all. When discussing immigration, asylum seeking or cross border migration I personally do not think the UK, and most of Northern Europe, have done anything for which they should generally apologize. Individual cases maybe troubling, or even heart breaking, but the U.K. need not hang its head. This is a particularly vexing issue for a country, it citizens and politicians. Granting residence to one's home is nothing to be taken lightly in a world of turmoil, discrimination and religious oppression. 2013 report on Asylum seekers in the U.K.--about 30% granted asylum and 25% approved on appeal,
posted by rmhsinc at 8:14 AM on July 3


Granting residence to one's home is nothing to be taken lightly in a world of turmoil, discrimination and religious oppression.

So.. uh here's the thing: QUILTBAG refugees are fleeing turmoil, discrimination, and religious oppression. In many cases they are fleeing almost certain physical assault and/or death, in some cases legally sanctioned by the state.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:20 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


As ever it turns out the wealth isn't quite as common in the commonwealth as the Monarchists would have people believe.
posted by srboisvert at 8:29 AM on July 3


UK immigration is almost certainly racist. My application for a spousal visa didn't even merit them taking a first look at the evidence of our relationship that I had brought in. Yes, we're both white & anglo.
posted by jb at 8:34 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


feckless--and what does that mean? You know what I meant--The pressure on countries who have (yes) generally progressive policies and safety net systems (UK Northern Europe, US, Australia) could well be inundated with endless immigration and asylum applicants. Policies governing and regulating these issues are troubling for every one--this is one of those lose-lose situations from a public policy perspective. And I would say to srboisvert that the wealth in commonwealth is substantially there whether Monarchist or Republican. OK, the UK is racist, homophobic and what ever but it certainly continues to be a desired location for those who are victims of oppression, discrimination and live in fear. I am not at all sure what some of you want--but I have a hunch that no matter what the UK, US and Australia did it would fall short of expectations.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:39 AM on July 3


You missed Canada from that list.

This isn't a lose-lose situation except for QUILTBAG refugees, who are sent packing, in droves, back to countries that will actually, for fuck's sake, outright kill them legally just because of who they love.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:43 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


feckless--you are right I did miss Canada. Sorry Canada. And your solution is to admit LGBT applicants from countries where repression and fear of life is a serious issue--and would you extend the same to all persons subject to death/dismemberment because of religious beliefs (note some of the : Africa/Mideast/SE Asia), or ethnic identity or political beliefs. Thrashing around in righteousness may make one feel better but does little to seriously address the political, economic and social issues attendant to asylum and immigration policy.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:52 AM on July 3


and would you extend the same to all persons subject to death/dismemberment because of religious beliefs

Yes. Of course.

Thrashing around in righteousness may make one feel better but does little to seriously address the political, economic and social issues attendant to asylum and immigration policy.

Your insults do nothing to bolster your assertions. The opposite, actually.

Immigration policy is an enormously huge issue in Canada. So... yeah.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:59 AM on July 3


"Immigration policy is an enormously huge issue in Canada. "

And in the UK. Probably more so as there has been so much for ten years that UKIP are getting votes.
posted by marienbad at 9:14 AM on July 3


Also, the attitude towards gay men in Jamica is horrific - there are songs with lyrics like "batty man blap blap" - and I'm pretty sure people have been banned from performing in (poss even entering) the UK due to the nature of their lyrics.
posted by marienbad at 9:15 AM on July 3


Reggae artists from Jamaica have also been banned from entering Canada to perform as well.

I mean for fuck's sake, one of the more popular reggae songs I've ever heard included the lyrics "fly low fly high / all botty boys die"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:19 AM on July 3


And your solution is to admit LGBT applicants from countries where repression and fear of life is a serious issue--and would you extend the same to all persons subject to death/dismemberment because of religious beliefs (note some of the : Africa/Mideast/SE Asia), or ethnic identity or political beliefs.

well, fuck yes. Of course yes. I can't believe you appear to have asked that question seriously yes. What do you think refugee status is for, people who aren't allowed to buy a second yacht where they came from?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:58 AM on July 3 [11 favorites]


I didn't think i would get many likes on the post ( and I don't consider thrashing around in righteous indignation a personal insult, but I apologize.) And fuck yes, I seriously asked that question because it is a question that has to be answered everyday by politicians, administrators, bureaucrats and executives in most of the countries we discussed. I don't think the realistic or pragmatic answers are as easy as asserted. Asylum is for some asylum seekers, not all seeking asylum, and countries mange petitions for asylum based on their own priorities. Yachts, that is just plain sarcasm--is the reverse that you would grant economic asylum to those from regions under severe economic disruption due to war, internal strife etc. Try selling that to your citizens and tax payers. I realize corporations, governments, the privileged and others have no particular sacred status here but I do at times find a certain elitism, if not arrogance, in some of the responses--I certainly don't think the US, UK, Ireland, Canada Norther Europe and the Scandinavia are perfect ( and they certainly are humanly flawed) but I am sure they struggle with these issues and make sincere efforts to do the best they can given internal and external political realities, pressure groups, resource considerations, legal restraints/precedents etc. As stated they (we) are far from perfect but I personally would prefer to save my ire and indignation for countries where asylum is practically impossible and the countries that generate the need for asylum.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:25 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


... but I personally would prefer to save my ire and indignation for countries where asylum is practically impossible and the countries that generate the need for asylum.

We can do both
posted by Twain Device at 12:11 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


If the adjudicator can’t tell that the applicant is gay, the adjudicator may question how the applicant’s countrymen could tell.

This is precisely the issue in the Soto-Vega v. Ashcroft, 1 a case which is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit. In Soto-Vega, the Immigration Judge found that although the applicant had suffered past persecution both by the police and the public in his native Mexico, the applicant did not “look gay” to the Judge, so he did not believe the applicant would suffer future persecution.


(ノಥ益ಥ)ノ ┻━┻
posted by en forme de poire at 12:29 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


rmhsinc, I'd have guessed that given the amount of time you've spent here, you'd know that sane and thoughtful comments about how one might actually implement humane and liberal policies in a world populated by real live people and various political actors would not be warmly greeted.

Of course the UK, US, Canada, and Sweden are never going to be able to grant asylum to all oppressed and threatened LGBT people worldwide, just as they will not be able to admit, e.g., everyone who has been displaced by wars in Syria and Iraq. The question is how to help as many people as we realistically can, and how to help the right people. I can see how the litany of personal questions at the second link is distasteful. But what would you suggest? I have seen firsthand the lies desperate people will tell for an opportunity to immigrate -- and that absolutely includes pretending to be gay. That doesn't make them bad people, but it's not unreasonable to try to weed out their asylum claims.

It's fine to argue that we should be doing more, but "fuck yes, of course let's throw open the borders to everyone who claims to be LGBT" is just self-righteous preening by people who probably never have to actually struggle with these issues in the real world.
posted by eugenen at 12:36 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


twain device "We can do both" To some extent but I only have so much time, energy and resources. I no longer want to use them without a clear focus. Perhaps you can be more generous but I can't and do not wish to.

@eugenen--appreciated, at least I don't feel like a complete pariah
posted by rmhsinc at 12:43 PM on July 3


I personally would prefer to save my ire and indignation for countries where asylum is practically impossible

See above: LGBT asylum claims have a ~99% failure rate. I'd consider that practically impossible.'

"fuck yes, of course let's throw open the borders to everyone who claims to be LGBT" is just self-righteous preening by people who probably never have to actually struggle with these issues in the real world.

That sounds like self-righteous preening from someone who's never had to deal with being queer in the real world, in countries where being openly so can get you actually killed, legally--often via legislation pushed towards them by American fundamentalist Christian groups. E.g. Uganda.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:16 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


twain device "We can do both" To some extent but I only have so much time, energy and resources. I no longer want to use them without a clear focus. Perhaps you can be more generous but I can't and do not wish to.

I think the whole point of saying "We can do both" is that the response doesn't rely entirely on your personal energy and goodwill.

It always strikes me as rather absurd when countries that spent centuries creating plantation societies and settler colonies get huffy about taking in refugees, most of them from their own former colonies. History doesn't end when you leave behind the victims, and you will never quite know if the violent and slef-serving othering you did to have the colony has normalized self-serving and violent otherings later on. (Well, unless you're an American evangeleical cheering on the Ugandans; then you know.)
posted by kewb at 1:46 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


It always strikes me as rather absurd when countries that spent centuries creating plantation societies and settler colonies get huffy about taking in refugees, most of them from their own former colonies. History doesn't end when you leave behind the victims, and you will never quite know if the violent and slef-serving othering you did to have the colony has normalized self-serving and violent otherings later on.

I've heard this kind of argument before, and it simply strips former colonies of moral existence. It says that countries can become lawfully independent but they will always be passive victims of their history. It infantilizes people (often non-white), and says that white people are arbiters of their moral being. In this case, Jamaicans can neither exercise moral choice over how they treat LGBT people, nor should they be blamed for doing so. Anything a Jamaican does which is morally wrong is the responsibility of their white "moral masters" back in the UK to make right. It asserts that a master-slave relationship still exists and should exist when it comes to morality. It is well-meaning but disgracefully racist.
posted by Thing at 2:29 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


That is a ridiculous misreading.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:52 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


From the list of questions in the first-linked article:

How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?
How does that display you are bisexual?
Why have you got to behave as a bisexual in [country]?


(Emphasis added.) "Why can't you just act straight?" Ugh ugh ugh.
posted by Lexica at 3:40 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?
How does that display you are bisexual?


Given the stupid questions that Alan Cumming gets on a regular basis, I'm frankly not surprised.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:39 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


History doesn't end when you leave behind the victims, and you will never quite know if the violent and self-serving othering you did to have the colony has normalized self-serving and violent otherings later on.

I'm afraid Britain bears a much more concrete responsibility than even this would suggest. Jamaica was Britain's property for over three hundred years. Generally, its laws are Britain's laws. Its sodomy laws are nearly verbatim retentions from the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. Compare sections 61-63 of the British law with sections 76-78 of the Jamaican one. Only section 79, "Outrages on Decency", appears to be new.

In the Caribbean (most of my experience being specifically in Trinidad, though Jamaicans don't exactly keep quiet on this issue), it's a common trope in anti-LGBT rhetoric of the sweet-faced, "respectable", hate-the-sin-love-the-waiting-for-the-devil-to-straighten-out-the-sinner-in-ghastly-hell kind that we have our own traditions and values, deserving of protection from faddish, foreign concerns; that it is arrogant, disrespectful and outright imperialist for outsiders to interfere in our treatment of our very own homosexuals; and that local LGBT people and their allies are just duped and degraded, as well as dazzled by the sight of pretty white women constantly fingerbanging one another on American primetime television. (Our death penalty advocates have a remarkably similar outlook btw.) There's this selective reading of history, where Leviticus, sodomy laws and malicious intolerance are all ours, for better or for worse, yet love, respect and acceptance are oppressive, frivolous imports. It's utterly backwards. Here's an excerpt from an interesting article by Joseph Gaskins Jr called ‘Buggery’ and the Commonwealth Caribbean: A comparative examination of the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago that talks about it a bit:
Even though colonies in the Caribbean adopted British buggery laws in their various incarnations during the colonial project, the colonial environment was much more relaxed than the British ‘home base’ (Hyam 1991). It was in the final decades of the 19th century that outright hostility towards homosexual acts became common, specifically during the Victorian era. Anxiety about homosexuality was fuelled by fears of declining middle-class values and perceived threats to the British Empire (Upchurch 2009).

In general, the colonies provided greater space and privacy, separation from family ties and moral pressures, along with the power that accompanies conquest (Hyam 1991). During the first half of the Caribbean colonial project British colonisers lived in an almost all-male society with few outlets for heterosexual sex and with little legal restriction (Dunn 1972; Burg 1983). Though these demographics changed significantly by the 18th century, sexual licence was among the most distinctive characteristics of British Caribbean society (Green, in Hyam 1991, p. 93).

As for slave communities in the British Caribbean, little is known of how their attitudes towards same-sex sexualities manifested in the colonial context. Planters preferred to buy healthy young adult males from West Africa, specifically Papaw, Cormantin and Ibo (modern-day Benin, Ghana and Nigeria). Sweet’s (1996) historical analysis suggests that many of the spiritual traditions of these West African people created a social and cultural space for male homosexuality.
Jamaican seems to be on another level, but I can't help feeling that in Trinidad at least, there's no reason for us to hold on to this hate -- it's not us. Not that I bother blaming Britain at all, really -- I hear we're proper self-governing countries now. We absolutely know better.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:39 PM on July 4 [7 favorites]


An UK asylum seeker speaks out:

“I get £35 a week on the Azure card, it's like a top up card. You have to use all your money in the week. If you leave more than £5, they take it off and put £35 on the next week. Because they don't give me cash, I struggle to travel around, so I have to always do my shopping on Tuesdays when I have a bus ticket. I can only take two buses – one there and one back. I only have two tickets, for those buses.”
“Being an asylum seeker is something like a label. When you go to Tesco to pay and pull out your card, they'll say “oh”, and take it from you, and charge it. Already they're like: “She's an asylum seeker”.”

posted by travelwithcats at 9:01 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


travelwithcats--I read the entire article and found it somewhat lacking in generating any concern for her welfare or even her situation--particularly the reference to the fact that the burden of proof should be on the Home office and not the asylum seeker--either very naive or not understanding the realities of immigration. Also, since she is seeking asylum from persecution she seems preoccupied with the inconveniences of daily life while this is being resolved. I would not expect gratitude or appreciation but at least some expression of feeling safe.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:55 PM on July 6


That article was not perfect by any means, but it gives one person a voice who we usually don't hear.

I think it just happens so often that we get caught up in those almost academic discussions about migration and in turn lose sight of the realities and struggles of the people involved. In theory we all know that seeking asylum is (and is meant to be) a transitional state, but reading how restricted the life of an asylum seeker is, gives one just another level of understanding. I for one didn't know that asylum seekers were disallowed to save money from week to week. As if anything they might ever want to buy cost less than £35.

I don't know if this woman feels safe. She might be in a safer country now, but the way she describes officials treating her might not be contributing to her feeling safe. She mentioned she had to move three times already and that it always was on short notice. I don't know if I would feel safe if I had only that little agency.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:51 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


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