LGBT Refugees in UK: the case of Alvin Gahimbaze

23.May.2011 · Posted in out of Africa

For the attention of:

-UK Prime Minister -UK Home Office -UK Ministry of Justice -UK Border Agency -UK Immigration Matters -Oxford Removal Centre -UK Embassy in Italy -UK Permanent Representation to the EU -Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs -Human Rights NGOs -UKBA Criminal Directorate

To the special attention of
-Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal Family

Copy to: -UN High Commissioner for Refugees Hon. António Guterres -UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay -Members of the European Parliament


Alvin Gahimbaze fled from Burundi with his sister after the slaughter of his family during ethnic clashes between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi minority. Alvin and his sister are Tutsis. He arrived in the United Kingdom in 2000 and immediately applied for refugee status. Alvin has been waiting for his application for refugee status to be accepted since he was 16. He has studied in England and created a life for himself in Bristol with his sister, who is now a British citizen.

Now aged 27, Alvin has still not been granted asylum.On the contrary, after having several requests for asylum turned down, he was imprisoned by the British authorities in the Oxford Removal Centre instead of receiving the protection he is entitled to. Alvin has now been in the detention centre for over five months, living among real criminals and facing the daily threat of deportation. This threat has become psychological torture as every day the young man sees his country men being taken away for deportation. “Will it be my turn tomorrow?” he asks himself day and night. This is pure torture to a fragile person in a delicate mental state. Alvin has repeatedly expressed the need for urgent psychological support, and even attempted suicide at one point. Because not only does Alvin suffer from post-traumatic depression as a result of the tragic events he witnessed during his childhood in Burundi (where his parents and his other relatives were murdered before his very eyes) but in order to avoid the horror of deportation he is forced to experience the humiliation and violation of his privacy in proving to the UK Government his homosexuality.

This has already been declared publicly with plenty of evidence, including letters from his sister and former partner, which have been sent to the UK Border Agency and top British government figures. Alvin has also given a public interview to the human rights organization EveryOne Group, which can be seen on You Tube at the following link:

Without any feasible reason the young man’s many requests for asylum have been turned down despite the numerous reports written up by humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on the abuses perpetrated on LGBT people in Burundi*.

If Alvin were to be deported back to Burundi where he has no relatives or friends to protect him, he would be left to fend for himself, left to a destiny of discrimination and persecution because of his sexual orientation and the fact that he belongs to an ethnic minority that is still being persecuted and harassed.

Alvin has been living a life of total existential instability for the last ten years due to the authorities’ refusal to grant him the asylum he is rightfully entitled to. He is presently locked up in jail like a common criminal,without having committed any crime. He has been tormented by the spectre of a return to Burundi since he was 16, along with the image of his family’s murderers with whom he would come face to face if he were to be deported. When can Alvin finally start to live his life?

There is no explanation why the British authorities have chosen to detain this innocent young man, and why they are insisting on deporting him back to a hostile country,a young man whose only crime is that of being different.In the recent past the United Kingdom showed itself to be a shining example in the respect for fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, individual freedom and dignity, as well as international protection. Instead, Alvin’s ordeal continues (despite the authoritative voices that are working to prevent the British authorities making a terrible mistake) the bureaucracy is going ahead, and, inexplicably, the authorities are trying to justify this abuse.

We urge the UK authorities once again to reconsider young Alvin’s condition as a refugee and persecuted person. We ask them to restore his freedom and offer him a chance to create a new life for himself, enabling him to forget the horror and suffering that has marked his young life so far .

Yours Sincerely,






N.B. Alvin Gahimbaze’s case is being followed by the International Court for Human Rights (Application no.11494/11) and associations and authorities throughout the world, including:

Everyone Group – Dario Picciau, Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro (Co-presidents) – Hon. António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Graham Watson MEP – Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar – LGBT South West Greens Party – Ryan Cleminson – Alan DEVE Protection Associate – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR – London) – National Coalition Against Deportation Council (NCADC) – UNHCR – LGBT Asylum News – Turpin Millers LLP ( Solicitors) – Michael Cashman (LGBT Intergroup Chair EU Parliament) – Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor (Green Party MEP’s) and others.

*The legal situation regarding gay men in Africa.
by Avert

Anti-gay laws often contradict the constitution of African countries and their commitment to human rights. Human Rights Watch (2010, 21st May) ‘Zambia: Intolerance threatens health, Rights’ – – African Union (1981) ‘African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ –

Nevertheless, across the African continent a total of 36 countries out of 53 have laws, as shown below, which make homosexuality a criminal offence. Laws differ markedly both between countries and within countries. Imprisonment is the most common punishment, the term of which can vary dramatically depending on the country or even region; for example from 10 days in Eritrea to a life sentence in Sierra Leone. Other punishments include the death penalty, flogging and imprisonment with hard labour or a fine. The type of punishment and its severity is ruled in accordance with the details of an offence (e.g. public/private act, with a minor, against ‘the will’ of another person, a repeated act, whether the act involved actual intercourse or ‘gross indecency’). In countries that do not have laws against homosexuality, social stigma and discrimination still occur and in some cases men who have sex with men are still subject to arrest for crimes such as vagrancy.

Daniel Ottosson/ILGA (2010, May) ‘State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults’ –


Punishment Imprisonment term Fine
Algeria imprisonment 2 months – 2 years Yes
Angola Labour camp N/A N/A
Botswana Imprisonment <7 years N/A
Burundi Imprisonment 3 months – 2 years Yes
Cameroon Imprisonment 5 years Yes
Comoros Imprisonment 1 year – 5 years Yes
Egypt Imprisonment 3 months – 3 years Yes


Imprisonment 10 days – 7 years N/A
Ethiopia Imprisonment 10 days – 15 years N/A
Gambia Imprisonment 14 years N/A
Ghana Imprisonment 5 years – 25 years N/A
Guinea Imprisonment 6 months – 3 years Yes
Kenya Imprisonment 5 years – 21 years N/A
Lesotho Common law offence N/A N/A
Liberia First degree misdemeanor N/A N/A
Libya Imprisonment <15 years N/A
Malawi Imprisonment <14 years N/A
Mauritania Death by public stoning 

or imprisonment

3 months – 2 years Yes
Mauritius Imprisonment with 

hard labour

<5 years N/A
Morocco Imprisonment 6 months – 3 years Yes
Mozambique Labour camp N/A N/A
Nambia Common law offence N/A N/A
Nigeria Federal Law: Imprisonment*. 

Sharia Law: Death penalty.

14 years* N/A
São Tomé and Principe Labour camp N/A N/A


Imprisonment 1 year – 5 years Yes


Imprisonment 14 years N/A
Sierra Leone Life imprisonment Life imprisonment N/A
Somalia Penal Code: Imprisonment*. 

Sharia Law: (southern region)

Death penalty / flogging.

3 months – 3 years* N/A


Flogging & imprisonment. 

[Death penalty or life imprisonment*

if convicted 3 times]

<14 years – life imprisonment* Yes
Swaziland Common law offence N/A N/A
Tanzania Imprisonment 1 year – life imprisonment Yes
Togo Imprisonment 3 years Yes
Tunisia Imprisonment 3 years N/A
Uganda Imprisonment 7 years – life imprisonment N/A
Zambia Imprisonment 5 years – 14 years N/A
Zimbabwe Imprisonment <1 year Yes

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