UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group began in 1993, as Stonewall Immigration Group, when there was no provision in UK immigration rules to allow a foreign person to live in the UK with their same sex partner and no provision allowing people to claim asylum on the grounds that they feared or experienced persecution because of their sexual orientation. Our service is based in London but we provide assistance to anyone who telephones our helpline, emails us or attends our meetings.
During the years that the group has been providing immigration support, information and advice to the lesbian and gay community, we have had enormous success. We achieved the first legal equality of any sort for gay men and lesbians in the UK with the creation of the Unmarried Partners Rule. This precedent is considered to have had a vital influence on the consequent development of the Civil Partnership Act, and we provided major input into the immigration section of the Act.
As the area of need within our community changes from same‑sex couples, who now have immigration equality with heterosexuals, to those persecuted because of their sexuality, we continue to use our experience, expertise, reputation and skills to promote human rights and eliminate discrimination through the provision of support to lesbians and gay men seeking asylum.
The work to support lesbian and asylum seekers began when, as a result of increasingly frequent contacts from asylum seekers and their solicitors, we became more aware of a worrying lack of support for this group. Our solicitor volunteers, amongst whom the top 5 immigration firms in London are represented, were experiencing similarly increased demands for help.
We support those seeking asylum due to fear of persecution on the grounds of their sexual orientation by:
- raising awareness amongst asylum seekers of the issues and the assistance that is available;
- providing the opportunity for regular meetings with each other to combat isolation, to foster both a sense of community and a sense of safety and to integrate into the lesbian and gay communities in the U.K;
- providing independent, quality legal information and advice on immigration issues;
- providing an information sharing facility for those working with lesbian and gay asylum seekers;
- creating a resource of information on those countries where persecution of lesbians and gay men exists.
For more information please see our latest annual report
Meetings are held monthly. Check schedule in right hand side bar at the top of the page, or call the office, leaving a message with your mobile number.
The meetings may be a vital first point of contact for those who have not yet made an asylum application, who have a real fear of persecution if they return home. We will explore issues such as what an asylum claim based on sexuality involves, how to access good quality representation, what constitutes a fresh claim etc.
UKLGIG volunteer lawyers will begin with presentations on key themes and there will be an open discussion, providing an invaluable opportunity for information sharing and mutual support.
UKLGIG wants to make clear to asylum seekers and legal representatives that
we do not under any circumstances issue confirmation that people have attended
asylum legal meetings if that is the only contact they have had with the organisation.
We also do not issue membership cards.
Until November 2014, UKLGIG will be offering drop-in support sessions from 2pm- 5.30pm, usually but not always on the last Wednesday of each month. See schedule in right hand side bar at the top of the page to check the latest dates.
— We are not in a position to provide legal advice in these meetings —
If you would like an appointment, please book through
David Viney, Health & Wellbeing Manager on 0121 643 0821
The Legal Services Commission has severely cut funds for asylum work, resulting in far fewer solicitors accepting publicly funded asylum cases. In addition, there are even fewer solicitors with specialised knowledge of the specific issues for gay men and lesbians. This shortage of good quality solicitors with Legal Service Contracts makes it extremely difficult for lesbian and gay asylum seekers to find suitable solicitors to represent them.
In order to tackle this problem, in February 2006, we set up a rota of legal aid solicitors, with experience in representing lesbian and gay asylum seekers, who have been willing to volunteer their time to assess cases and to take referrals from us. We have subsequently referred hundreds people to these solicitors. As awareness of this service grows, more and more lesbian and gay asylum seekers are requesting referrals. Many of these cases are extremely difficult, having reached various stages in the legal system without ever having had an opportunity to present their cases properly. This referral system is providing a crucial lifeline to people, some of who would otherwise be deported from detention in the UK.
UKBA – Legal Advice Update: Extract from UKBA Newsletter January 2011
Launch of early legal advice pilot aims to help improve asylum decision making.
“The early legal advice project (ELAP) pilot in the Midlands and East region was launched on 15 November 2010. ELAP will provide additional legal advice early on in the asylum process and give caseowners more information to assist them with their decision making. The pilot, which intends to reduce the number of applicants lodging an appeal, is being run in partnership with the Legal Services Commission.
The ELAP process will include:
• a structured system to allow the applicant to refer their case to a legal representative prior to the .
• additional contact between the caseowner and legal representative to establish when further evidence can helpfully be submitted.
• the use of flexible criteria so the caseowner can delay making a decision until all the facts of the case are fully established.
• the presence of a legal representative at substantive asylum interviews.
It is hoped that by providing legal advice earlier in the asylum process we will see improvements in the quality of decision making and a more efficient asylum system.”
Legal aid funding limits
We hear of many asylum applicants who are left without legal representation after a refusal or a failed appeal. It is true that a solicitor is unlikely to apply for further funding from the legal services commission unless he/she considers the case has a good chance of success. It is, however, recognised that the asylum applicant should have a right to a second opinion and there is, therefore, a procedure to appeal against the decision by a solicitor not to continue with a case. Solicitors have an obligation to advise their clients of this procedure for appeal, but too many do not do so.
As part of the project we have begun the time‑consuming and painstaking process of carrying out the research required to provide up to date evidence of the situation for lesbians and gay men in their countries of origin, and for this we depend on a small team of volunteers.
Currently many solicitors must do this research on an ad hoc basis and frequently do not have the time or funds necessary. In many cases asylum seekers themselves, often whilst in need of physical and mental health support, are forced to attempt this research.
The country information gathered is made available to solicitors who, if working under the constraints of legal aid funding, often do not have the resources to conduct in depth research on a case-by-case basis.
The group is becoming known as the main point of contact both for lesbian and gay asylum seekers and for solicitors and barristers requiring expert information to represent them.
A further aim of the research is to improve the quality of Home Office Country Information Reports. It is these reports that Home Office caseworkers and judges use when deciding whether an asylum seeker is, in their opinion, at risk and they often fail to mention lesbian and gay issues at all. We are developing an on‑going dialogue with the Home Office and are pleased to be gradually building a relationship where our expertise is well regarded and as a result, some of the research we provide is now being included in their reports.
In November 2006 we were granted observer status on the independent Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI), established to review and provide advice to the Secretary of State about the country of origin information material produced by the Home Office – this is a recognition of our reputation and expertise in the immigration field.
Since the government introduced the fast track system in April 2007, many more of the asylum seekers who contact us are in detention. Every week we receive up to 10 calls asking for support from lesbian and gay asylum seekers in detention.
When detained in the UK nearly all are extremely vulnerable, often having already been abused, tortured or raped. If perceived to be gay or lesbian they suffer abuse, harassment or assault from fellow detainees and if they are not obviously gay, they are unable to be honest about their reason for claiming asylum for fear of abuse. They also face barriers in accessing legal support in general, and specifically from solicitors with expertise in lesbian and gay claims.
Lesbians and gay men who, with our assistance, have successfully claimed asylum, have urged us to provide more support to those in detention centres. Currently, 40% of our users are in detention and 7 out of 10 calls for help are from people in detention. In addition, most of our users are detained for some length of time while they claim asylum.
Very few organisations provide support to asylum seekers in detention and until now there has been no organisation responding to the specific needs of detained lesbian and gay asylum seekers. To fill this gap UKLGIG has set up a team of volunteers who visit LGBT asylum seekers in detention centres twice a month and carry out country research to support their asylum claims. This project will give them a chance to safely discuss their claim and access expert support and information.
Victims of torture
It is important to emphasise that if an asylum applicant alleges they have been tortured, and they are accepted for assessment by the Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture, they should not be detained and their asylum claim should not be fast-tracked (or it will be withdrawn from the fast-track system).
There are several routes by which a torture survivor might arrive at the MF. Those who have recently fled to Britain are likely to be referred by one of three main front-line agencies that try to smooth the path for new asylum seekers – the Refugee Council, the Refugee Arrivals Project or Migrant Helpline, each of which liaises closely with members of the MF’s Early Intervention Team, which identifies those needing dedicated help.
The team also sees those who refer themselves. Doctors, community mental health teams and refugee community organisations also refer cases. Immigration lawyers send asylum applicants who, to support their claim, need documentation, by way of an official medico-legal report, of the torture they have suffered, and its lasting effects.
Training and guidelines
We have produced a course entitled ‘Asylum On The Grounds Of Sexual Orientation’ which, in partnership with the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), we deliver to immigration solicitors. The course has received much acclaim from participants.
In conjunction with ILPA we are also producing sexual orientation and gender identity guidelines. These are similar to the gender guidelines that have been adopted by the Home Office and by the wide range of practitioners in the immigration world. Alongside this development, we have also begun training immigration judges on issues of sexuality.
Our work with immigration judges and our on‑going dialogue with the Home Office has the potential to have significant influence and impact on policy.
UKBA – Training Update:
Extract from UKBA Newsletter January 2011
Home Office training supports new sexual orientation guidance.
“A new asylum consideration training course on sexual orientation has been devised for asylum case owners to help them conduct sensitive and objective enquiries. The new one-day training module, which was piloted in London and Liverpool, has been developed to support the publication of the recent asylum instruction on sexual orientation.
As part of the training, decision makers learn how to interview applicants whose claims are brought on the grounds of sexual orientation sensitively and effectively, using appropriate lines of questioning. The training will also enhance decision makers’ ability to make the most of country of origin information and write the most effective decisions possible. The training has been devised with input from key corporate partners including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Stonewall and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group and is expected to be rolled out to all regions by March 2011.”
The work we began in 1993 on immigration for people in same‑sex relationships led to an understanding that our aims could only be achieved within the broader aim of lesbians and gay men achieving equality in the UK. Similarly, the work with asylum seekers has led to an understanding that a broader aim is also required. In the long term, the group aims to:
- Strengthen ongoing relationships with the International Lesbian and Gay Association, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and other overseas groups, including NGOs such as Amnesty International and others in Europe;
and with the support of LGBT groups in their own countries:
- Help change negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men in other countries;
- Be involved in action opposing overseas persecution and torture of gay men and lesbians;
- Influence decision‑makers in other countries on lesbian and gay issues, and encourage the British government to support this.
[See “Tackling homophobia overseas”, speech by Ian McCartney, MP]
Contact details for asylum seekers
Please note that we can ONLY respond to your asylum queries if you are already in the UK.
If you are in the UK and need advice about asylum please call –
Abby Ryan, Asylum Support Worker Tel: 020 7922 7812
Monday – Friday during office hours
If you cannot speak to her please leave a message or send an email and she will get back to you as soon as possible.