Government policy is still leaving Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual asylum seekers exposed to torture, rape and even death.

This article was originally published in OUT Bristol Issue 8

“When I was really young I had an affair with a friend. Because he was a chief’s son, the whole thing went up and the police started looking for me, the chief said he’s going to kill me. My pictures were everywhere, I was wanted. I went underground but a group of guys grabbed me. They took me to an old house, tie me on the chair. They want me to admit I’m gay. If you say you’re gay they can kill you. You just have to keep lying, no I’m not, no I’m not, no I’m not, because if you say you are they can kill you. I was beaten, I was tortured. It was terrible, it was really horrible. Eventually they left me for dead because I was really beaten, with wires and stuff – four or five guys beating one person. I was really scared…I was in hiding; I don’t come out during the day ever. I only come out at night”.Adebayo, a Nigerian asylum-seeker. Quote taken from Stonewell’s report “No going Back: Lesbian and Gay people in the Asylum system”.

In July 2010 a Supreme Court ruling was meant to stop a shameful practice.  For years, the UK Government had forcibly returned asylum seekers who claimed they were fleeing on grounds of their sexuality back to countries such as Iran, Cameroon and Uganda. This has resulted in countless deaths, acts of torture, rape and harassment that could otherwise have been prevented.

For years asylum seekers were interrogated and asked to “prove their sexuality”, asked why they “chose to be homosexual” when they knew it was illegal in their country and even asked why they were not “discreet” about it to avoid harassment. There is case after case of people being returned home to face the unimaginable because of their sexuality. For years the UK Borders Agency enforced this policy and the UK Government watched it happen.

In 2010 however a landmark Supreme Court ruling promised to change all this. At the time the Home Secretary Theresa May said, “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”.

Less than one year on, Ministers have admitted they have not collected any data on the issue and do not know whether or not this ruling has been implemented. In other words we do not know whether the “institutionalised homophobia” in the UK Borders Agency (as described by the Stonewall report) has been tackled.

The ruling at the time said that relevant cases should be flagged and recorded.  There seems to be no evidence that this has happened. Due to this failure, we have no idea if individuals are being granted refugee status on grounds of their sexuality or whether they are still being forcibly deported.

Disturbingly there are shreds of evidence to suggest that things have not moved on. Just last month the Guardian reported the case of a Lesbian from Uganda where Home Office lawyers argued that there was no persecution there and that she could return home as long as she lived discreetly.

To be able to claim any credibility on this issue the Government needs to instruct the UK borders Agency to start recording these cases as standard practice.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Government policy is still leaving Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual asylum seekers exposed to torture, rape and even death.

  1. Pingback: Richard Howitt MEP “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote” | Hynd's Blog

  2. Pingback: Mike Hancock – The Home Office appears to be “institutionally homophobic” « Hynd's Blog

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