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22-year-old Coletane Lopez, a Jamaican national who has lived in Leeds with her family since she was 11 years old, has been released from an immigration detention centre following a campaign to free her. Coletane is a lesbian and is trying to claim asylum in Brtiain on the grounds that if she is deported to Jamaica her life will be in danger due to widespread homophobic hate crime in the country.

Dave Younger, Leeds City Socialist Party

Although female homosexuality is not a criminal offence in Jamaica, violence against lesbian and gay people, including murder and rape, is rife according to human rights organisations. Male homosexuality is a crime according to the Jamaican criminal code. Sodomy is punishable by imprisonment for ten years with hard labour, a law which was first introduced when Jamaica was a British colony. Many hit songs in the Jamaican dancehall and reggaetone genres explictly endorse the murder of gay men and lesbians.

Coletane was detained without notice by immigration officials after seeking asylum on 13 March and sent to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. She had gone there after learning that she was considered an illegal immigrant by the British government, even though she has lived here since she was a child. After being detained, Coletane was put on a Fast Track Asylum Process and was denied legal representation.

Coletane’s brother Nestfield, who has been allowed to stay in the UK because he is in a heterosexual marriage, started a campaign to free her. The camapign included an online petition, local media coverage and the use of social networking sites. Coletane herself went on hunger strike and became suicidal after being denied legal representation. After much delay she was provided with a solicitor and given just a few days to prepare a legal case to appeal in the event of her asylum claim being refused.

Coletane’s legal victory means that her Fast Track Asylum Process has been stopped, meaning that she can stay in the UK with her family while the courts consider her claim for asylum. She has told the press that being in the detention centre was “like being in prison”. She is still in fear of severe human rights abuse if the British government returns her to Jamaica.

The Socialist Party supports the right of individuals and families to live safely and freely in whichever part of the world they choose to live, and to have their human rights respected wherever they come from. We are opposed to the state detaining individuals on the basis of their national origin and maintain that human beings have the right to make a life for themselves anywhere they choose. No one should be forced to go to a country where they fear they are going to be attacked, murdered or imprisoned. The right to life is not something that should ever be taken away by anyone, including the state.

Immigration is often blamed by the right wing for a whole host of social and economic issues which are in fact the fault of the capitalist system which exploits everyone on the planet and divides people along lines of nationality and ethicicity. It suits the ruling class to divide workers along these lines, makes it easier for them to exploit us and keep us alienated. Whilst we are fighting each other, we aren’t fighting our real enemy, the capitalist state.

As part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, the Socialist Party fights for a socialist world without borders, and we welcome every worker of whatever race, sexuality or gender to engage in the struggle against the global capitalist system that denies our human rights and enslaves us all.

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