Bisexual Asylum Seeker petition nears 2,000 names

photo: Houses of ParliamentEarlier this month the UK’s largest gathering of bisexual people, BiCon, heard the story of a bisexual man the Home Office proposes to deport back to a country where he faces isolation, persecution and violence – just for being bisexual. An online petition has been building momentum and is nearing 2,000 signatures asking the Home Secretary to grant him asylum.

The closing plenary debate session at BiCon in Leeds heard how local bisexual man Orashia Edwards faces deportation to Jamaica where he risks being murdered over his sexuality.

Home Office guidance says asylum seekers do not need to prove their sexualities, just that they face persecution. Despite this Edwards faces imminent deportation because UK judges do not believe he can be bisexual.

At the conference Gracey Morgan, who had previously been through the asylum system, explained that the caseworkers “… mean well but they say to us to claim we are [gay or] lesbian because they don’t think bisexual is understood. They say we will be better off if we don’t say ‘bisexual’, but Orashia has not done this.”

The risks he faces are real. As the petition, to the Home Secretary Theresa May, states: “His case has gained mass media attention and support in the past months and he has become well known both here in the UK and in Jamaica. This means that the danger his life is in, because of his sexuality, has increased and he was recently victim of a homophobic attack here in Leeds where he lives … All his family are settled in the UK and [in Jamaica] he would be completely isolated and in hiding.”

The deportation would separate Edwards from his baby daughter, who was born in the UK, and his mother who has also settled here. Campaign group Leeds For Change have already successfully fought to stop planes taking him out of the UK and have called on the Home Office to apply their own rules in this case.

The Home Office have said previously “We have changed our guidance to ensure that we do not remove individuals who have demonstrated a proven risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation”. Yet Edwards is one of the clear majority of LGB asylum seekers whose claims are still rejected by the Home Office and who face being returned to the threat of homophobic violence: a much higher return rate than other asylum seekers.

“How can the UK government claim to champion equality for LGBT people while breaking its own rules to deport bisexual asylum seekers? Why, in 2014, is bisexuality something that judges can dismiss as not really existing?” asked a spokesperson from Bisexual Index.

“We urge people of all sexualities to sign the petition calling on the Home Secretary to review this case, and to donate to Mr Edwards’ legal team.”

Even if the judge’s argument that Orashia isn’t bisexual were true, by now the profile of his asylum case would surely make Jamaica a sadly unsafe place to which to return him.