LGBT Asylum in the UK
Coming out in the UK can be difficult. It means accepting, and telling people, that you’re not part of the supposed norm which is perpetuated by the media, advertisers and popular culture. It means potentially leaving yourself open to abuse, both verbal and physical, discrimination in the workplace and, in some cases, the danger of being shunned by friends and family.
However, we’ve got it relatively easy in the UK. It’s no longer illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), discrimination is outlawed and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse, beit physical or verbal, is now classified as hate crime.
It’s not so easy elsewhere.
Imagine being an LGBT person so scared for your safety that you’ll leave your friends, family and life behind to take an arduous, dangerous journey to a strange country, unsure of what you’ll find there, only knowing that whatever you find will be less dangerous than what you’re leaving behind.
Imagine having taken that journey as the LGBT dependent of an asylum seeker whose claim has been rejected and finding yourself faced with the prospect of returning to a country where, if your sexuality or trans status were discovered, you could be in danger of intimidation, assault, murder, imprisonment or even state execution.
Homosexuality is still illegal in 80 countries. It carries the death penalty in five.
The UK is still sending LGBT people back to these countries.
The Government Position
In July 2010 The Supreme Court said:
To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is.
Home Secretary Theresa May responded by saying:
We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.
I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution. From today asylum decisions will be considered under the new rules and the judgment gives an immediate legal basis for us to reframe our guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, taking into account relevant country guidance and the merits of each individual case.
These are just two of many cases. There are few statistics available for LGBT related asylum claims, rejections and appeals. One of the few statistics that is publicly available indicates that 98-99% of LGBT asylum claims are rejected, compared to 73% of non-LGBT claims (figures from the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group’s Failing The Grade .pdf, published April 2010.)
There are other issues which affect LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. Refugee Support’s Over Not Out report (.pdf, May 2009) found that:
LGBT asylum seekers in the UK are encountering high levels of homelessness, discrimination and exploitation due to their sexuality or gender identity. Whilst asylum seekers generally face difficulties with poor accommodation and discrimination, the report finds that LGBT asylum seekers not only experience these problems, but their sexuality or gender identity can add significantly to the problems they face adding layers of multiple disadvantage, arguably more acute than for other asylum seekers.
Things are likely to get worse before they get better. The UKBA’s already overstretched, under-resourced workforce (many of them PCS members) are going to be hit by 20% budget cuts while cuts to Housing Benefit and the Local Housing Allowance are likely to lead to more people being forced in to cheaper, more crowded accommodation, exacerbating the problems of discrimination and harassment suffered by LGBT asylum seekers.
There is also the threat of the far right, who thrive in times of economic adversity, and the regular attacks on asylum seekers in the press to contend with.
Fortunately there are support and campaigning groups working to help LGBT asylum seekers in the UK.
NB: not all of the following are officially supported by PCS or PCS Proud
Organisations focussing on LGBT people include:
The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG): http://www.uklgig.org.uk/index.htm
LGBT Asylum News: http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex Association (ILGA): http://ilga.org/ilga/en/index.html
Iraqi LGBT: http://iraqilgbt.org.uk/
Organisations supporting asylum seekers more generally include:
Refugee Support: http://www.refugeesupport.org.uk/
The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC): http://ncadc.wordpress.com/
Over the last forty years we’ve won many battles and made Britain a safer place for LGBT people. Now we need to help those who aren’t so fortunate. Please spread the word, sign the petitions, send messages of support, email your MP, follow the twitter accounts, join the Facebook groups…
Special thanks to LGBT Asylum News for providing some valuable information for this article. Twitter: @LGBTAsylumNews