Two lesbians identified as Diana Namusoke from Uganda and Success Johnson from Nigeria, fled violence and discrimination back home in Africa, only to be caught up in Germany’s messy asylum system, Luisa Rollenhagen reports from Berlin.
“I don’t know what they want,” Diana Namusoke tells DW, the frustration palpable in her voice. “I don’t know why they don’t believe.”
Namusoke, 48, and Johnson, 27, are two lesbian women from Uganda and Nigeria respectively, who have come to Germany in search of asylum. They’ve explained — first to the police officers who picked them up, then to the aid workers at the refugee centers where they were transferred, and then at their asylum application interview at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) — that they feared for their lives in their home countries. That as a lesbian woman, nowhere was safe. And now they’re in acute danger of being deported back to the places they have desperately been trying to escape.
Both the BAMF and the respective administrative courts that handled the women’s appeal claims don’t believe the women are lesbians. Because Namusoke and Johnson didn’t deliver a “gapless account of their experiences,” as is required by the BAMF, their requests for asylum were denied.
This led to a situation where, in late November 2018, the two women fled once again: this time from Bavaria — where their asylum claims had been filed, rejected and their deportation had been ordered — to Berlin, where two church communities granted them asylum.
Namusoke knew she was a lesbian at a young age. When she was 13, she had her first girlfriend. While she managed to keep her sexuality hidden for a while, her family eventually found out when she was 16, and kicked her out. For Namusoke it marked the end of her schooling, the end of her family life and the beginning of a life filled with fear, uncertainty and relentless bureaucracy. In Uganda, homosexuality is illegal and punishable with hefty prison sentences.
Johnson also knew she was a lesbian by the time she was 13. She lost her parents at an early age, and grew up in Benin City. In Nigeria, homosexual relationships are also illegal, and after an anti-same-sex marriage law was signed in 2014, an increased tolerance for violence against LGBTQ individuals made it “impossible” for her to keep living there, she says. She left Nigeria in 2016, by first traveling to Libya, and then across the Mediterranean to Spain.
Somewhere along the way to Spain she was raped, and when she arrived in Spain she gave birth to a girl. Johnson lived illegally in Spain, and at some point the authorities took away her child, although the details are vague. She then went on to Switzerland, where she unsuccessfully applied for asylum, and then on to Germany.
Both Johnson’s and Namusoke’s lawyers have been submitting appeals claims to the court in Bavaria, which are still pending.
“We are not safe anymore,” Namusoke says, explaining that the publicity around their case means they can now be easily outed in their home countries. “When you are sleeping at night, you can’t sleep. You close one of your eyes and open one. You’re always afraid,” Johnson says.