Gay asylum-seekers face 'institutional homophobia' from UK Border Agency

By staff writers
23 May 2010

Groundbreaking new research suggests that asylum-seekers who have been raped, tortured and threatened with death because of their sexual orientation in their home country are being routinely deported due to systemic discrimination in the UK's asylum system.

No Going Back, published today (23 May), features for the first time detailed evidence not just from lesbian and gay asylum-seekers but from staff at the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The evidence has been gathered by the charity Stonewall, which campaigns for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The report quotes UKBA staff acknowledging that they receive no guidance on interviewing gay applicants from countries such as Uganda, Jamaica and Malawi and that determinations are often made on the basis of out-of-date or inadequate information about an asylum-seeker’s country of origin.

It suggests that UKBA staff often assume that applicants are either lying or will be able to avoid detection if they are returned to their home country.

“We’re beaten every day, chopped up, mugged, persecuted, abused. As long as you’re recognised, you’re victimised. Every day in fear. Tomorrow you might die.” said Harrison, a Jamaican asylum-seeker.

But the report quotes Indira, a member of UKBA staff, who admits that “Someone from Jamaica claiming they’re gay will just automatically be disbelieved”.

Between 2005 and 2009, the UK rejected 98 per cent of asylum applicants who cited sexual orientation as their reason for being persecuted. This compares to the rejection of 77 per cent of asylum applications as a whole between 2005 and 2008.

Stonewall are encouraging the UK authorities to remember that sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex are criminalised in eighty member states of the United Nations. The report highlights the suffering inflicted in a number of these countries on gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

“They took me for spiritual cleansing,” explained Femi, a Nigerian asylum-seeker, “Where people held me and pushed raw ground pepper into my vagina. If you’re unfortunate like me you get raped as well.”

Stonewall's Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said, “This report provides both shocking and clear evidence of institutional homophobia in Britain’s asylum system. Legitimate asylum-seekers are frequently being deported”.

The coalition government which took office in the UK earlier this month has promised to ensure that asylum is granted to gay, lesbian and bisexual people fleeing homophobic persecution.

Summerskill said, “We’ll now be pressing the UK Border Agency and the Home Office urgently to implement the manifesto promises made by both partners in the new government to end this profound injustice”.

Stonewall has developed a series of recommendations to ensure that fundamental errors of judgement made by UKBA staff are urgently rectified.

These include robust policy, guidance and training for all UKBA decision-makers to ensure that legitimate lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum-seekers are questioned effectively and given fairer case hearings. The charity also insists that Home Office Country of Origin services should be improved to reflect up-to-date, accurate information on the scale and nature of homophobic persecution.

[Ekk/1]

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