"Nazia and Samina are facing persecution if they are sent back"
Two sisters have said they face LGBT-based violence if they are deported to Pakistan.
Samina Iqbal, aged 52, and Nazia Iqbal, aged 48, of Stockport, have had their asylum application rejected despite new evidence being brought forward as part of their submission.
They were set to be deported in February 2020 but the Home Office appeared to reverse their decision.
Since then, the Iqbal sisters have been held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Meanwhile, people they know in Pakistan have been sending threats to their brother-in-law.
Even though they have been openly lesbian for 20 years and have records of threats made against them, the judge presiding over their previous application said it was not “credible” that they are gay.
When the appeal was dismissed in 2019, the sisters lost their right to any further appeals unless a new submission was made as a fresh claim with new information.
On March 10, 2020, they faced a bail hearing where their lawyer had the last chance to try to prevent the Iqbals from being sent back to Pakistan.
Mohammed Akhtar explained that the sisters have publicly stated that they are lesbian.
This was not in their original application as they gave their interview following the rejection of their appeal but before the new submission was made.
“Nazia and Samina are facing persecution if they are sent back to Pakistan. They have spoken openly about their sexuality and are the focus of a number of international news agencies.
“I don’t know what will convince the courts of their sexual orientation, one cannot be more out than on a public platform with their photographs plastered all over the internet, there have already been threats and messages been sent to the girls’ brother-in-law via WhatsApp.”
The Home Office did not comment on why the new information was prohibited from being included in the bid for a new submission.
A spokesperson said:
“The UK has a proud record of providing protection to those fleeing persecution. In the 12 months to December 2019, we gave protection to over 20,000 people – the highest number since 2003.
“We do not routinely comment on operational matters or individual cases, but each case is considered on its merits against relevant case law and published country information.”
After being transferred to Yarl’s Wood, Samina told Sky News that she fears there will be “threats to our lives and rape” if they are sent back to Pakistan.
Approximately 20 years ago while still living in Sahiwal and following the death of their conservative parents, the sisters began telling close friends they were lesbian and started dating women.
The sisters said in a joint statement through their lawyer:
“We started receiving threats and death threats being posted through our door.
“We had our windows broken and our partners moved away after their houses were broken into. We lived in fear.”
Between 2016 and 2018, the Home Office refused at least 3,100 asylum claims from LGBT people from countries where same-sex acts are criminalised.
The figures revealed that at least 1,190 LGBT Pakistanis were refused asylum.
There is a small LGBT community in some areas of Pakistan but it is illegal in the country.