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Gay Burundian wins UK asylum after 11-year battle

The gay Burundian asylum seeker Alvin Gahimbaze has won his 11-year battle for sanctuary in the UK.

Alvin fled Burundi with his sister, Danella, in 2000 when he was 16 years old. Alvin and his sister were fleeing ethnic clashes in which his family was massacred. Alvin is part of the persecuted Tutsi minority.

Homosexuality was made illegal in Burundi in 2009. A 2009 Human rights Watch report "Forbidden: Gays and Lesbians in Burundi" details the repression there. A UK Foreign Office expert spoken to off the record confirmed that it is unsafe for gay people.

Although his sister is now a permanent resident, Alvin’s application for asylum was refused as he was not believed to be gay. Several removal attempts were made.

Alvin can now return to his studies at Bristol University, where he had started a law degree at the University of West England. He had built a new life with his sister Danella over the past 11 years in Bristol.

Following a referral by LGBT Asylum News, Alvin's case was taken up by the Green Party in Bristol. They found new lawyers at Turpin Millars.

The Green Party MEP’s Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor wrote letters to the UK Border Agency as did the Labour MEP Michael Cashman and the Bristol Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie. The Italian Everyone Group have also supported the campaign for Alvin.

SW Greens LGBT spokesperson Ryan Cleminson said

“We had to get involved as we couldn’t sit back and allow Alvin to be deported back to Burundi, where he would have faced almost certain torture and or death at the hands of the repressive government."

The threat of removal led Alvin to develop serious depression as the childhood trauma from witnessing massacres was still very present. He said of being removed:

“It would be like handing myself to the people that killed my family and that scares me.”

Following his bail from detention, followed by his receipt of Leave to Remain, Alvin wrote the following letter:

I am writing this small letter in order to thank you the LGBT Greens (part of the Green Party) especially to Mr Ryan Cleminson and many others who intervened in securing my release from detention and most importantly to have the right to stay in this Country.

I believe strongly that the LGBT Greens provided me with so much help because I do not think I would have done it on my own. Spending time in and out of detention for the past three years had left me in a distress and anxiety state after all of these years. It is an awful experience to go through because not only you are worried what’s going to happen to you but also you are always kept in the dark by the UK Border Agency.

In addition to the above, I am writing this letter to express my relief and satisfaction that finally, after years of struggle and dealing with the UK Border Agency, I was released on July 26th 2011 and also was informed that I will be given “Leave to remain” in United Kingdom as a “Refugee”. I am certain that this was possible through the help I received from the LGBT Greens along other Human Rights Organisations that were involved in my case.

It had been a very difficult time for me being in detention for a whole year and just not knowing what was going to happen to me. Thankfully, the UK Border Agency saw sense and ceased my Deportation back to Burundi where I have no family or any connection left other than being my
country of Birth.

This experience has profoundly affected me in such way that I feel that I will offer my time in defending Human rights for asylum seekers whenever I am able to and quite rightly speak for them because I believe that those who are seeking sanctuary are not always respected by Immigration Government Department around the World including the UK Border Agency.

I couldn’t finish this letter without thanking all those people and Organisations who have helped me in this fight against my Deportation. I couldn’t have done it without their help, support, and advice and I sincerely hope they know how much I am grateful to them immensely.

Thank you again to everyone who believed in me and was there for me during this difficult time in my life.