HOME OFFICE SETTING THE BAR TOO HIGH FOR ASYLUM CLAIMS FROM LGBTQI+ PEOPLE.
- Home Office decision-makers are not applying the correct legal standard of proof of ‘reasonable likelihood’ in all asylum claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBTQI+ claimants are routinely disbelieved if they didn’t apply for asylum immediately, even in cases where they didn’t know their sexual orientation or gender identity were grounds for receiving protection.
- Statements from friends, partners and LGBTQI+ organisations testifying to applicants’ sexual orientation or gender identity are frequently disregarded.
A report released today finds that the Home Office is setting the standard of proof too high for asylum claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people.
The report by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) finds that the Home Office frequently disregards statements from friends and partners of LGBTQI+ people that testify to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and ignores evidence form LGBTQI+ organisations.
LGBTQI+ people are also disbelieved if they’ve had relationships in their countries of origin. Claimants have been told that their behaviour was implausible if they’d kissed in the dark, protested when their partners were harassed, or sent love letters.
In other cases, the Home Office employs a stereotype that LGBTQI+ people cannot adhere to their religions. One person was told, ‘you have not provided a reasonable explanation as to why you have continued to practice Islam knowing full well that homosexuality is not permitted in the religion’.
The report also finds instances of the Home Office asking insensitive and inappropriate questions in asylum interviews. A trans woman was asked whether she had had gender affirmation surgery, a question which is both objectifying and humiliating.
Others had their claims refused when their emotions did not correspond with those expected by the Home Office. One person was disbelieved because they said they felt good when they had a relationship with someone of the same sex.
Emmanuel fled Nigeria due to persecution as a gay man. He said,
“The process of claiming asylum is so, so frustrating. The Home Office interviewer asked me how I know I’m a gay man. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable with ladies and I never felt anything when I was around them; but whenever I’m with men I feel happy and sexually attracted. She said I was contradicting myself.”
“She also said it was too risky for me to have been in a relationship with my male partner, but emotions are emotions. Sometimes you feel it and you just do it.”
“She asked me why I was in a relationship with another man if Christianity doesn’t accept it. I said I can’t help it, it’s who I am.”
“Human feelings can’t be predicted”.
Mo, a gay man who fled a Middle Eastern country, said,
“The Home Office treat me like I’m a liar. I’ve told them my situation, but they don’t believe me. I have a medical report and they asked why it was in English, but that’s normal in my country. I don’t know how I can prove to them that my story is true”.
Women in particular are subject to assumptions by the Home Office about their sexual orientation. One woman’s asylum claim was refused in part because she hadn’t experienced any attraction towards other women until she developed feelings for her first same-sex partner.
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of UKLGIG, said,
“Our research has found that the Home Office is setting the bar too high for LGBTQI+ people to claim asylum. LGBTQI+ people are being faced with a range of barriers: refusal if they don’t claim asylum straight away, dismissal of supporting evidence, and humiliating questioning.”
“LGBTQI+ people who have had to flee their homes are often very vulnerable and traumatised. It’s important that the Home Office treats them with dignity and respect and doesn’t imply that they are lying when there is no basis for doing so.”
“The Home Office should live up to its own guidance and apply the correct standard of proof, requiring asylum applicants to establish only that it’s reasonably likely that they will be persecuted”.
The report comes the day after the Guardian published a letter from more than 30 refugee groups and faith leaders urging the Home Secretary to agree to an independent public audit into asylum decision-making.
Notes to editors
The research was based on transcripts of Home Office asylum interviews and Home Office letters giving reasons for refusing asylum in 48 claims (the Home Office does not make public its reasons in cases where it decides in favour of asylum applicants).
The report is available for download from 12 July.
Home Office ‘experimental statistics’ released in November 2017 suggest that around 6% of all asylum applications include sexual orientation as a basis for the claim. Claims on the basis of gender identity were not included in these statistics.
UKLGIG has been supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum process since 2003. We provide psychosocial support, legal advice and information, and advocate for changes in government policy and practice.
Contact: Leila Zadeh, firstname.lastname@example.org , 07434 655353