Harrowing Experience: Denied Asylum and Denounced – How I was Double-Crossed by the Immigration Authorities
I will never forget the day that the announcement was made. I had been in the detention center for 13 months and was going crazy with worry. This was no longer a life and I had in desperation asked the immigration officer whether I could at least return to my country incognito since it was infinitely preferable to being locked up for no crime other than wanting to escape my brutal country of birth. They had just passed a law condemning suspected gays to death. The vigilantes interpreted the law to their own tastes and preferences so that it turned into a carte blanche for attacking anyone that was deemed to be acting in a gay way. Within months, our lives had been turned upside down.
One of the local tabloids had chosen to boost its readership over a dull weekend by publishing a list of what they deemed “suspected homos”. It really was the most mortifying thing in the world. I knew that some of the people on that list were not gay at all. It would appear that someone somewhere did not like them that much and wanted to exact revenge on them by releasing a rumor that was bound to attract maximum social approbation. The people on the list were being shunned. People were losing jobs and we were always on the verge of being attacked on the street. I thanked my gods that I was not on the first list but the tabloid had threatened to release even more damaging “revelations” about the “dirty homos”. It would be only a matter of time before I was found out.
I sneak out of the country
I do not know how they did it but the people at the charity were able to help us get to Europe. Ostensibly I was on a tour. The fact that I had savings on my account and a job to come back to worked in my favor when I was applying for a visa. I knew of course that this was no leisure trip. I was literally running away from my homeland in order to escape the wrath of the mob that was demanding for the lives of my kind. It was so uncomfortable. My bosses did not know that I was not returning. I had booked annual leave for a month to deal with a “health issue”. They did not ask any further. I had been very secretive all my life and I was certain that nobody at work knew much about me.
When I got to the airport, I immediately declared to the immigration officer that I was an asylum seeker. I could see her face change from the friendly officer to a very skeptical jailer. Indeed; that is when my incarceration began. I was put in a cell and interrogated extensively. The officers were of the view that I was an affluent person and had a good job. There was really no need for me to be running away. Besides, the fact that I was able to board a plane meant that I had the means to escape to another third country rather than coming to Europe. When I explained that the neighboring countries were similarly hostile to homosexuals, the officers countered that they were not as bad as my own country.
Apparently the new laws were just bluster and that nobody was really going to be imprisoned for being gay. I showed them clipping of the tabloid article and they said that my name was not on it. They said that if I was discreet, I would be able to live in my country. Someone actually suggested that I do not take lovers in order to be safe or that I move to another part of the country where they did not know me. My jaw dropped. This was a country that had been preaching to the world about human rights and here they were; asking me to effectively step into the lion’s jaw.
Harrowing Experience, Legal Limbo Begins
The decision came that they were not satisfied with my descriptions of being in fear. However, they were also not convinced that I was merely an economic migrant. So a decision was made to continue investigating my case and monitoring the country situation. I asked where I was going to say and they said that it would be in a reception center. I told them that I had some savings and could work if allowed to. They said that working was out of the question and that I had to remain in the “reception center” otherwise they would issue an arrest warrant for me and put me in prison for absconding.
This looked suspiciously like arbitrary imprisonment. I asked whether I was being imprisoned and they said that I was not being imprisoned. I just had to remain in the accommodation that they had given to me. This was a fenced compound. We could come in and go out but had to stick to a curfew and register our presence. The officers warned us that we could be deported at any moment so we should not get too comfortable. I was flabbergasted. I had left my life for this. Anyway I figured that with time, they would see the veracity of my claim and would give me some kind of residency.
Instead I spent months of interrogations and re-interrogations. I was signed to verify and sign so many documents that I even began to lose track. If I got any detail wrong, the officer would look up knowingly. One said that I should just come clean and plead for mercy. I told them that I had a good job back home but did not want to be killed. That is why I run away. Meanwhile I was reading in my papers that there were multinational meetings taking place to tackle the crisis of the legislation. Little did I know that my tormentors were working together to put me right back from where I started.
A Very Public Deportation
One of my friends Mustapha run to me and said that I should google my name. I did so and there was the report. I was to be deported that afternoon. Nobody had even bothered to tell me. I was shocked but not entirely surprised. In exasperation I had told my latest interrogator that I was better off back home than being locked up here doing nothing but growing fat on the stodgy food. I think he jumped on that statement to justify the hasty deportation. Unfortunately, somehow the news got to the papers. I was unmasked at home. Not only was I being deported, I would have to face my family and the authorities who definitely knew now that I was gay. It was a harrowing experience.
When I got back, I was trembling with fear. The immigration officer mocked me for being a sissy boy and for shaming the nation. He asked me whether I was pregnant with my prison boyfriends from where I came from. It was just a harrowing experience. I was taken to a torture center where I was beaten. Someone stuck a truncheon in my backside. When I woke up, I was in hospital. The people from the charity came to see me and said that I definitely had proof of torture now. They would arrange for me to go to another safe country.
This time I went through the process and was immediately granted refugee status after undergoing a medical examination. Ironically my family now depends on me to send them money for upkeep. Once they abhorred me as the shameful gay but now I am the savior. My brother even playfully asked when I was going to get myself a rich husband, now that I was consorting with the depraved whites. It all seems a bit of fun now but it was not when I was betrayed by those immigration officers.
Heartless False Friends
I think it is a travesty that the details of asylum claims are passed on to government and the media where the person is running from. It is almost like an additional punishment for daring to escape. When the returnee faces their home country, they have a whole new set of problems to deal with. In my case, I was somewhat lucky to be admitted to another more organized country but the cost was significant. I was left traumatized by the experience, particularly the torture. Unfortunately; the officer who assaulted me has never been broke to book. I even suspect he was a closet case; otherwise why would someone want to stick bits up another man’s butt unless they had ulterior motives? That is the way of closet cases. They want to show that they are super straight by harassing one of their own kind. I am hopeful that one day the people that run the asylum policies will stand understanding the importance of confidentiality and discretion. We also do not want to be imprisoned when we arrive asking for asylum.