A leading UK gay-equality organisation says asylum seekers who have been raped, tortured and threatened with death because of their sexual orientation in their home country are being deported because of systemic discrimination in the asylum system.
A report, No Going Back, published today by Stonewall, features for the first time detailed evidence not just from lesbian and gay asylum seekers but from staff at the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
“They acknowledge 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gay applicants from countries such as Uganda, Jamaica and Malawi and that determinations are often made on the basis of out of date or inadequate information about an asylum seeker’s country of origin,” says the organisation.
The report, supported by the law firm Herbert Smith, details “deeply shocking” abuse and persecution that lesbian, gay and bisexual people face in many countries, and exposes specific disadvantages to their cases faced as a direct consequence of their sexual orientation.
The report claims that UKBA don’t know how to question lesbian and gay people about their experiences and often assume that they’re either lying or will be able to avoid detection if they’re returned to their home country.
“Stonewall has developed a series of recommendations to ensure that fundamental errors of judgement made by UKBA staff are urgently rectified,” the group says in a news release. “These include robust policy, guidance and training of all UKBA decision makers to ensure legitimate LGB asylum seekers are questioned effectively and given fairer case hearings.
Services should be improved
“Home Office country-of-origin services should be improved to reflect up-to-date, accurate information on the scale and nature of antigay persecution in countries where it’s currently happening – including the 80 member states of the United Nations where consensual acts between same-sex adults are criminalised.”
Stonewall lists a number of observations from those interviewed:
“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” – Harrison, Jamaican asylum seeker
“Someone from Jamaica claiming they’re gay will just automatically be disbelieved” – Indira, UKBA case owner
“They took me for spiritual cleansing, where people held me and pushed raw ground pepper into my vagina. If you’re unfortunate like me you get raped as well. But when men force themselves on you, you can’t tell anyone because you’ll bring more shame to the family” – Femi, Nigerian asylum seeker
“Gay people get beaten, stabbed and killed – a lot. They light them on fire and throw them in the river. Nobody’s going to do anything about it. I can’t go to the police. The police will arrest me because it’s illegal to be gay” – Adebayo, Nigerian asylum seeker
“I would look at how they’ve explored their sexuality in a cultural context – reading Oscar Wilde perhaps, films and music” – Nicholas, UKBA senior caseworker
“My mother said, ‘I wish you die of AIDS. Homosexuals die of AIDS. It was a mistake I had you as a child’ ” – Johnson, Ugandan asylum seeker
“Discretion is a silver bullet that the hostile decision maker has developed particularly for gays” – Edwin, Solicitor
“Colleagues have said they don’t know what questions to ask; we feel rude prying and embarrassed about asking these questions” – Sarah, UKBA case worker
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. 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.”