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Speaking for Ourselves

Kiran and David’s story

Kiran and David’s story

Michelle Fuller

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Kiran and David’s story

Kiran was born in a southern Asian country where being gay is a criminal offence and condemns him to being labelled a paedophile and mentally ill.

It’s a country where custom dictates the disowning of family members because of their sexuality and where newspapers carry stories of homes being set ablaze because someone has been ‘found out’ and they and their family become targets for abuse.

By the time he applied for asylum in the UK he had been in a relationship with his British partner, David, for four years.

David found out about Kiran’s asylum application only when asked to write a supporting letter. He says he never sensed that Kiran was experiencing a problem with his immigration status because he was always a happy person. And writing the letter made David realise the depth of his feelings for the man he would eventually ask to marry him.

“I’d got to the stage where I’d almost given up on the idea of serious relationships – I wanted one but it just never seemed to happen,” David recalls. “I realise now that while you’re dreaming about the relationship you want, you imagine somebody in your mind, but that person is limited to what you can imagine. Actually, the person who you really want to marry is somebody so wonderful you can’t even imagine what they will be like. That’s what I didn’t think would happen.  

Looking back at all the people I thought I loved, that’s not what I feel for Kiran at all. It’s something quite different. I don’t think I knew what it was that I didn’t have because I never experienced it. For me, [meeting Kiran] was like meeting a fairy-tale prince.” 

Kiran says before meeting David he dreamt of marriage but for many reasons, including his immigration status he didn’t think it would ever happen.

 “When I began having immigration difficulties I didn’t tell him because I was afraid he would reject me,” Says Kiran. “I thought he might say ‘Don’t come near me. You are illegal I don’t want to see you.’ I didn’t feel it was something he needed to know in the beginning because having an irregular immigration status here can make you feel like a criminal. But as our relationship grew more serious I had to let him know.”

During the preparation for the asylum application Kiran and David knew they would marry but Kiran wanted to wait until his asylum status had been resolved.

David describes the tone of Kiran’s asylum refusal letter as aggressive and its language as almost homophobic. He says the Home Office accused Kiran of lying and that the department seems to be trying to frighten people with its language.

After their lawyer made representations to the Home Office following the refusal letter, says David, “their reply was basically an attack.”

“Someone in the Home Office has absolutely no understanding of the things that happen to you as a gay man, especially coming from the part of the world that Kiran came from. You’re trying to explain crucial details to them and all you get back is this barrage of legal, aggressive stuff.”

The Home Office letter implied that since Kiran had said he prefers domestic family life with his partner to going to gay clubs, he could just stay at home and never go out when he returned to his country.

“The whole idea is that you shouldn’t have to hide your lifestyle”, adds David. “So the fact that they can say, ‘It’s fine, you can just stay at home’ goes against the spirit of what human rights are meant to be about.”

The Home Office accepted Kiran was gay and living with David, but said it could not give leave to remain on the basis of a right to family life because they weren’t married and had not lived together for more than two years.  He was told his country was more or less safe for gay people (based on Home Office “country guidance” that has since changed to acknowledge that this is not the case), and that he could relocate to another village or go elsewhere in the world and live independently.

Though Kiran had the right to appeal the Home Office decision, his lawyer suggested that if he planned to marry David anyway, doing so now would enable him to return to his home country briefly in order to apply for a spouse visa, and withdraw the appeal.  

For the appeal to be withdrawn, Kiran had to submit proof that he had married and left the UK.  There was now a race against time to get his passport back from the Home Office in order to register for the civil partnership. This usually requires 28 full days. They phoned, faxed and emailed the Home Office and were sent from one department to the next.

Even when their lawyer joined the passport chase there was confusion and delays. After three months of hard work by the couple, things were sorted out only one day before the couple was due to ‘give notice.’

Of his wedding day, Kiran says: “It was one of my dreams to get married to my life partner so it was a big day for me. [Even though] I didn’t have my family I have my friends, who love me as their family.”

After the wedding, the couple bought air tickets and submitted copies to the Home Office to confirm Kiran was leaving the UK.  David says the Home Office said it would accept any flight on any airline except the one on which they had booked.  No explanation was given. They rebooked, losing £400 in the process.

Kiran recalls, “The morning of leaving the UK I felt like a lamb being sent to slaughterbut at least David was accompanying him for a couple weeks before returning to the UK for work.

David remembers, “Once Kiran landed in Asia, his demeanour changed, his tone of voice became more macho, his body language changed. He changed as a way of protecting himself.”

Applying to return to Britain took months, a period Kiran describes as so traumatising that he contemplated suicide.  

He recalls submitting his documents at the local UK Visa Immigration (UKVI) centre for a spouse visa under civil partnership – a category that does not exist in his country of origin where homosexuality is illegal – and being treated with scorn as a gay man. “When I handed over my documents, the two people attending to me began nudging each other with their elbows, pointing at certain information on my documents and repeatedly looking at the documents, then at me.

There was an open desk where people were collecting their documents and one of the employees just opened up all my documents which had 12 pages of photos of my relationship with David and information about my health, exposing all my confidential details.”

Kiran’s visa was refused after almost three months on the grounds that he had previously made a ‘Frivolous application for asylum’, with no explanation of what ‘frivolous’ meant in this instance.

David says the refusal decision had not considered Kiran’s civil partnership or his relationship: “Although the Home Office acknowledged Kiran was gay and in a relationship, his application was still dismissed as ‘frivolous’.”

Kiran recalls that what followed was, “one of the worst times in my life, having to spend almost five months in hiding while waiting for a decision. When I received the refusal I just wanted to die. I never thought I would have to turn back to living a double life.”

The couple’s London-based lawyer was stunned by the way the case had been handled, and made an official complaint.  Later, he would tell Kiran it was one of the worst and most unjust decisions his office had seen in a long time.

A regional UK Visa Immigration manager subsequently asked Kiran to re-submit all his documents. A few days later Kiran was informed that after a comprehensive review the original decision had been overturned and he should submit his passport to the local centre.  The UKVI thanked the lawyer for bringing the error to their attention and offered an apology to Kiran.

Five months after having to leave the UK, Kiran returned to London. By then he was taking medication for high blood pressure, which he says worsened with the stress of dealing with the Home Office.

He returned to a life he thought was impossible, in which he is finally free to be himself and to live the way he desires, “the kind of life I always dreamed about with a partner I only imagined.”

  • Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals mentioned in this article

 

Helpful links and information:

Aderonke Apata story:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/14/nigerian-gay-rights-activist-aderonke-apata-wins-uk-asylum-claim-13-year-battle

UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG):

https://uklgig.org.uk/

Peter Tatchell Foundation:

http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/