TRANSGENDER EQUALITY INQUIRY: A ‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’ FOR TRANS ASYLUM SEEKERS
14 JANUARY 2016
An influential cross-party group of MPs has today warned there is still a long way to go to ensure equality for transgender people. However, to the disappointment of activists and organisations, the Women and Equalities Select Committee excluded trans asylum seekers from its much-anticipated report.
The landmark report makes over 30 recommendations in a wide range of areas and calls on the Government to take action to ensure full equality for trans people, emphasising the need to update existing legislation; provide better services, especially in the NHS; and improve confidence in the criminal justice system.
Despite extensive evidence from a range of organisation including UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group and the testimony of trans refugees, the report makes no mention of trans people fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary in the UK’s much-criticised asylum system.
Giving evidence to the inquiry, UKLGIG argued the needs of trans asylum seekers are often neglected and the Home Office is failing to take adequate steps to ensure trans people are treated with dignity and respect. UKLGIG submitted testimony from trans asylum seekers and refugees including Adam, a trans refugee from Egypt, who described:
“I was refused asylum three times. At first I didn’t even have a lawyer. When I was interviewed the Home Office’s interpreter told the official, “This is one of the strangest interviews I’ve ever done.” The Home Office refused to believe that I am trans, they treated me like a liar. They continuously referred to me as a woman. I felt like they were attacking me.”
Responding to the report, Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, commented:
‘Whilst we sincerely hope the UK Government will implement these recommendations and act to ensure equality for trans people, we are disappointed that the vital needs of trans asylum seekers have been excluded.
‘Trans asylum seekers are a highly marginalised and vulnerable group and their exclusion is a missed opportunity. Should not the vital needs of trans people fleeing human rights abuses and life threatening persecution be acknowledged? Should they not be protected in accordance with the law and treated with dignity and respect?
‘Too many trans asylum seekers experience ignorance and humiliation in our asylum system, are wrongly refused protection due to poor decision-making and unfairly incarcerated in immigration detention centres where bullying, abuse and harassment is rife. Their exclusion from this inquiry is regrettable and we have written to Maria Miller MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, to request our serious concerns be addressed.’
Action for Trans Health, an influential group of activists, also called for better treatment of trans asylum seekers and, responding to their exclusion from the scope of the inquiry, commented:
‘This is a significant oversight which should be addressed immediately.’
A separate report into the welfare in immigration detention of vulnerable persons, published today by Stephen Shaw, the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, describes as ‘wholly inappropriate’ the detention of a trans person in a cell not fit for any resident purpose at Dover Immigration Removal Centre. Mr Shaw commented:
‘I am sympathetic to the argument that transsexual people are unsuited to detention given what I have seen for myself is the inability of IRCs to provide an appropriate, safe and supportive environment.’
In March, a cross-party group of MPs and Peers criticised the bullying, abuse and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex asylum seekers detained in immigration detention centres in the UK.
In December, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called for further research on the plight of transgender asylum seekers and refugees globally.
Notes to Editor
- The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) is the only national charity dedicated to supporting, and advocating for the rights of, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers and refugees. Founded in 1993, UKLGIG provides support to in excess of 1,500 LGBTI people every year.
- For more information, please contact 020 7922 7812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.