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 LGBTI persons seeking asylum.
The work to support lesbian and gay 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 or gender identity, 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 LGBTI communities in the U.K;
- providing independent, quality legal information and advice on immigration issues;
- providing an information sharing facility for those working with LGBTI asylum seekers;
- creating a resource of information on those countries where persecution of LGBTI people exists.
For more information please see our latest annual report
If you are claiming asylum because you are LGBTQI+ or are thinking of doing so, you are welcome to our monthly asylum meeting. The dates and location are below. There is no need to book in advance. All UKLGIG services are free and nobody should charge you money for attending.
These meetings are open to LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and their friends or supporters only. We do not allow journalists or researchers to attend.
Volunteer lawyers will talk about the asylum process. There may also be time to ask the lawyers questions or speak to a UKLGIG support worker.
LGBTQI+ asylum seekers can attend more than once and we encourage you to do this if your claim has reached a new stage and you want to understand more about what happens next. You do not need to attend more than once if you do not need to hear the information again or your situation has not changed.
Please note that UKLGIG does not give confirmation of attendance at the monthly asylum meeting.
The drop-in support sessions in Birmingham are currently suspended. Further information will be posted when available.
The Legal Aid Agency has severely cut funds for legal help for asylum cases, resulting in far fewer solicitors doing these publicly funded asylum cases. In addition, there are even fewer solicitors with specialised knowledge of the specific issues, for asylum seekers who are gay men, lesbians, bisexual, trans or intersex. This shortage of good quality solicitors with Legal Aid Agency contracts makes it extremely difficult for lesbian and gay asylum seekers to find suitable solicitors to represent them.
In order to tackle this problem, for many years UKLGIG have worked with firms of legal aid solicitors and legal advice centres, with experience and expertise in representing asylum seekers whose cases are based on sexual or gender identity, to refer asylum seekers who need representation. We have over the years referred hundreds people to these solicitors. As the funding cuts have worsened, more and more 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 has consistently provided a crucial lifeline to people, some of who would otherwise be deported from detention in the UK.
The number of asylum seekers looking for good legal representation continues to be much greater than the number of cases that these lawyers can take on. We continue to provide this service but we have to limit this service to asylum seekers who need extra help and who have not been able to find a lawyer for themselves. From time to time we may have to suspend this service when delays are too long.
To find a legal representative for yourself you can look at the list of our Affiliated Lawyers or consult the Legal Aid Agency website to find which organisations have legal aid contracts.
Directory of providers – GOV.UK
Legal aid funding limits
Funding cuts have made it harder and harder for asylum seekers to get good legal representation, or for the representative to carry out all the work that should ideally be done to prepare and asylum claim or appeal. However, we also hear of some representatives who are failing to carry out work that can be properly funded by legal aid. We strongly encourage asylum seekers to work hard with their lawyer to prepare their own case and to ask questions if they are concerned that work that is needed is not being done.
Legal Aid can pay for:-
- your lawyer to prepare a statement with you about your asylum claim before you have your Home Office interview;
- a professional interpreter to attend your booked appointments with your lawyer and to translate your statement or important evidence about your case;
- your lawyer to go through your interview record with you to check for anything that needs to be corrected;
Legal Aid generally cannot pay for a lawyer to go to your asylum interview with you unless you are detained in a removal centre. It also cannot pay for work on a case that has a very poor chance of succeeding or for someone to change to a new legal aid lawyer (unless there is a very strong reason).
There is no fixed legal aid cash limit; there is a fixed fee for most cases unless the work takes much longer than average. The fixed fee is not a limit and your lawyer must carry out the work that is reasonably needed on your case even if the fixed fee has been exceeded.
If your asylum application has been refused, you can only have legal aid to pay for an appeal if you have a good enough chance of succeeding. If your lawyer refuses you legal aid for your appeal because they think you will lose your case, you can appeal against that decision if you think the lawyer is wrong. Your lawyer has to give you appeal forms and tell you how to appeal.
If you are in detention in a removal centre, there are advice surgeries provided by legal aid lawyers on a rota. Ask the welfare officer to sign up for an appointment if you do not have a lawyer and you are detained.
Every week we receive up to 10 calls asking for support from LGBTI asylum seekers or undocumented migrants held in detention.
When detained in the UK nearly all are extremely vulnerable, often having already been abused, tortured or raped. If perceived to be LGBTI they can suffer abuse, harassment or assault from fellow detainees. Yet if they are not obviously LGBTI, they may be 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 sexual identity or gender identity asylum claims.
UKLGIG aims to visit LGBTI asylum seekers in Yarlswood, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook and occasionally in Brook House Removal Centres on a regular basis. If you are in detention phone us for information and support and speak to a welfare or LGBT officer to make sure you are seen on our next visit.
Note that the Home Office have announced that generally they will not detain trans or intersex people in removal centres.
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 Freedom From Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) or by the Helen Bamber Foundation, they should not be detained and their asylum claim should not be fast-tracked (or it will be withdrawn from the fast-track system).
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 have produced 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 in the UK and abroad 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.
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.