A gay man who fled to the UK from Bangladesh wept in court as he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for “illegally” trying to stay in the country.
Saiful Alom was caught with a false ID document and drivers license under the alias of a Czech national Simon Slavic, which he illegally obtained to keep his residency in the UK.
Appearing via video link at Hull Crown Court on Friday (9 July), the 38-year-old wiped away tears as he was sentenced for fraud by false representation and two counts of possessing false identity documents.
The court heard that Alom committed the offences as he was “desperate” to stay in the country due to the threat of life imprisonment if he was deported back to Bangladesh.
“He is a gay man who feared social prejudice and violence,” said mitigating barrister Julia Baggs, as reported by Hull Live.
“It is a criminal offence punishable by life imprisonment there. He made the foolish decision to purchase and rely upon fraudulent documentation. He knew it was wrong. He is deeply remorseful.”
Alom, who pled guilty to the charges, was described as a “a decent person who desperately got caught up in this to stay in this country”.
The Bangladeshi national first arrived in the UK in 2004 and remained in the country after his visa expired a year later.
During his time in the UK he worked various jobs in warehouses and restaurants with the aim of becoming a “credit to society,” the court was told.
“You have been working hard and are clearly a decent individual apart from these matters,” said Recorder Barnett. “You have pleaded guilty and impressed the author of the probation report who indicates you are distressed about returning to your home country.
“That is something I have no control over. That is for the Home Office. I have no decision on whether or not you are entitled to stay. I’m afraid there is nothing I can say that will give you any hope on these matters.”
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LGBT+ asylum seekers often find no safe harbour in the UK
Unfortunately the Home Office is reported to be notoriously inhospitable to LGBT+ asylum seekers, whose claims are refused at a higher rate than the national average (recent figures show 54 per cent of LGB asylum claims were denied in 2019, compared to 48 per cent of other cases).
Campaigners have long complained this is down to Home Office’s “culture of disbelief”, with queer claimants being made to feel like “criminals” when seeking refuge.
Many stories have emerged of asylum seekers being expected to meet derogatory stereotypes to “prove” their sexuality, including one man who was rejected as he did not have a gay “demeanour” and did not “look around the room in an effeminate manner”.
Stonewall research has also found that LGBT+ asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable in immigration detention and face significant disadvantages and dangers, including discrimination, harassment and violence from other detainees and staff.
This harrowing detention environment has been found to have serious long-term effects on their mental and physical well-being.