Can you prove you're gay? Last minute legal battle for lesbian fighting deportation to Nigeria

Aderonke Apata: Judicial review case could halt deportation to Nigeria
Aderonke Apata: Judicial review case could halt deportation to Nigeria
Ian Dunt By

Update: On April 1st 2015, the high court ruled that Apata Aderonke could be returned to Nigeria. 

A lesbian campaigner who was voted one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK is fighting her deportation to Nigeria today, as her case goes to the high court.

Aderonke Apata, 47, was first reported to police in Nigeria when she was living with a girlfriend and was eventually sucked into a legal process which marked her for death by stoning.

"When I left university I had a girlfriend and we ended up living together in a flat," she told Politics.co.uk.


"That was a very strange thing at the time and I'm pretty sure it's still strange now in Nigeria. We weren’t married. There was no man coming to the house. I'm sure people started to suspect there was a relationship between us.

"The police came up and got me arrested. They said I was engaged in homosexual acts."

Apata was sent to prison where she was placed in an open cell with other inmates.

She said:

"I was tortured. The inmates were very, very intolerant. I was called names. I was the subject of ridicule. It wasn't something that was easy for me to cope with."

She was later sentenced to death by stoning by a sharia court – a sentence which was only stopped when someone acting as counsel raised a legal technicality.

Several members of her family and her ex-girlfriend were murdered in the recriminations which followed, but Apata was able to flee to the UK.

She was then stopped at immigration and sent to a detention centre.

Her asylum claim forced her to go through the humiliating ordeal of proving her sexuality, but was rejected twice. She still says she feels distraught at having to share details of her intimate life with Home Office officials.

Later, she came within a hair's breadth of being deported to Nigeria.

She told Politics.co.uk:

"When I was taken to the airport I made up my mind I was going to die. There were emails that if I came back I'd be killed. I was taken to the Nigerian high commission to be given travel documents. They knew what my case was about. I knew I was going to be under the watch of the Nigerian government. I was looking at 14 years imprisonment. I was panicking.

"I was taken from prison and transported to Colnbrook [detention centre] a day before departure. From there I was taken in van and driven to the airport. On the way to the airport I was told my flight was cancelled.

"My escort just said 'congratulations'. What's the congratulations for? He said: 'Your flight has been cancelled'. It was like this weight was taken off my shoulders."

Continued attempts to have Apata deported were halted by a judicial review secured by the group Medical Justice. Some 244,000 people have now signed a petition calling on home secretary Theresa May to halt the deportation of LGBT asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

Last October, as she was waiting for her day in court, Apata won the Positive Role Model award at the National Diversity Awards.

Her case starts at the Royal Courts of Justice at 09:00 GMT today, with several trade unions and gay rights groups attending to support her.

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