“To think that this new law was not in effect during my time coming here and I still ended up in a detention centre,” Joel Mordi tells me when I ask him on his thoughts on the recently introduced Illegal Migration Bill.
Joel arrived in the UK in 2019 after facing persecution in his home country of Nigeria, after he launched the country’s first Pride protests. Even after following official protocol to seek asylum, he was detained for several days in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, where he says he was subjected to verbal, and even sexual, abuse.
“I did everything by the book – arrived via airplane and sought safety in my first port of entry -but I still wasn’t protected from the solicitation or derogatory catcalling in Harmondsworth.”
The bill, introduced into law on July 20, means asylum seekers entering the UK “irregularly” will now be removed after 28 days’ detention to their own country or a “safe third country”. What’s more, their asylum claims will be deemed “inadmissible”, meaning they won’t be allowed to seek settlement rights or citizenship in the UK.
This is particularly problematic for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, since it could mean either remaining in their home country and continuing to face persecution (or worse) or ending up in even more desperate scenarios.
“People will become even more anxious to leave their precarious situations and will say yes to just about anything, and human traffickers will always bank on and prey upon desperate situations such as this bill,” said Joel, also founder of the non-profit Mordi-Ibe Foundation.
Detention for “irregular” entries to UK
Under the new law, asylum seekers may be removed to countries with little-to-no legal protection for LGBTQ+ people, including Rwanda and Ghana.
Last year, Human Rights Watch said in an open letter that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in Rwanda “had been targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and treated worse than other detainees.”
Meanwhile, same-sex relations are illegal in Ghana, where so-called “unnatural carnal knowledge” can lead to prison sentences of up to 25 years.
“The bill exposes LGBTQ+ individuals to all forms of abuse, and the most vulnerable among us now face grave imminent dangers,” Joel said.