Not all gay asylum-seekers sent back to face persecution

Because of internalised homophobia many LGBT refugees stay underground and don't try and regularise their situation until they become desperate.

Our guest writer is Paul Canning, editor of LGBT Asylum News

“Virtually all gay asylum-seekers sent back to persecution” – that’s the Twitter meme about the UK and it’s been picked up in blog and website posts around the internet. It’s based on The Independent on Sunday’s coverage yesterday about the release of a report by Stonewall into LGBT asylum. The report doesn’t say what the meme says it does but, unfortunately, because of a note attached to the press release issued by Stonewall, it’s easy to see how the Indy got the wrong end of the stick.

Stonewall’s report uses research by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group released two months ago. This examined 50 initial asylum refusal letters on sexual orientation grounds and that’s where 98% came in; 73% is the overall first refusal rate. But those cases are appealed or resubmitted and a lot of them win. Two just came before the Supreme Court in a test case of the ‘go home and be discrete’ policy.

How many either win or are eventually removed we simply don’t know because the Home Office doesn’t collect numbers (they’ve been asked, it’s ‘prohibitively expensive’). We do know some are – I’ve been helping a gay man removed to Accra connect with a ‘safe house’ as he has a death threat from his family.

What the Stonewall report does is qualitatively, through extensive interviews with Border Agents as well as asylum seekers, demonstrate what they describe as “institutionalised homophobia” in the system. This reinforces what UKLGIG found in the language used in refusal letters.

For example, UKBA case worker to asylum-seeker (my emphasis):

“Why do you choose to be homosexual when you know it is illegal in your own country?”

This is the ‘counter meme’ on this topic which needs headlining because ‘98% sent back’ is really damaging if it becomes accepted truth.

Bruce Leimsidor, Professor of EU asylum law at Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy,  goes into this in a post for LGBT Asylum News. He explains that credibility is crucial in asylum and for decision makers like the UKBA case owners, government officials, and MPs to see this ‘98% sent back’ untruth they might well “wrongly suspect that gay asylum advocates are behind these distortions”.

Prof. Leimsidor also says that this is undoubtedly the case with the general public “who must sense that such extreme figures on deportations can’t possibly correspond to reality”. When the UKLGIG research was first published I had a number of journalists requiring the first-refusal explanation precisely because it doesn’t sound credible at first blush.

But the most damaging impact would be on refugees themselves, Prof. Leimsidor adds:

“It is [already] difficult to persuade persecuted refugee gays to file asylum claims as such, and not try to avoid the issue by filing a fictitious claim on political or religious grounds.

“The Stonewall report quite rightly stresses how difficult it is for many LGBT coming from intensely homophobic societies to admit their homosexuality and to subject themselves to the long, humiliating, and uncertain process of filing for asylum on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

“It has been well established that one of the cruelest effects of persecution is that since it defies rationality, the victim begins to believe that he somehow deserves the mistreatment.”

Because of internalised homophobia many LGBT refugees stay underground and don’t try and regularise their situation until they become desperate. This is exactly what happened to the Ghanaian I tried to help. It’s no wonder then that they aren’t thought credible by UKBA.

But this can change and these people can be helped through education about the backgrounds these refugees come from as well as policy change and leadership from the top to do something about the homophobia Stonewall demonstrates exists in the agency. It has been done in other areas run by government – most notably the police. And many UKBA agents want it – Stonewall quotes some of them asking for help.

The Coalition has included a line on LGBT asylum in its agreement. I am encouraged by this and explain why here.

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14 Responses to “Not all gay asylum-seekers sent back to face persecution”

  1. amol rajan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Not all gay asylum-seekers sent back to face persecution:

  2. Left Foot Forward

    Not all gay asylum-seekers sent back to face persecution:

  3. Nanakaly Hawler

    Please not again! I am not against Gays or lesbians, I love everyone the same, in fact I have very important friends who are Gay but I found %98 of asylum seekers who are claim to be Homosexual are untrue. I am fraid This world has changed if you wanted it is very easy to be gay for example in Iran. does the UK have to accept all gay asylum seekers in the world and give them safety?? the answer No. If %52 claim asylum from Iran, I am sure %2 will be genuen and they can be descreet in Iran without any issues. I hope THE NEW COLLISION GOVERNMENT will be tough and crack down Bogus asylum seekers.

  4. Bham Labour Students

    why do you choose.. – it beggars belief #LGBT

  5. LGBT Asylum News

    By us RT @leftfootfwd: Not all gayasylum-seekers sent back to face persecution:

  6. paul canning

    @Nanakaly Hawler

    I suggest reading this: Iranian LGBT: Persecuted, harassed, raped, tortured, threatened with death, forced into operations

  7. trevmax


    it’s terrible, but the UK cannot and should not try to solve the world’s problems. we are no longer an imperial power. other countries make other countries’ laws and we have no right to interfere. if people break the law in iran and escape to the UK then they should be sent back to Iran. beyond that it is not our problem

  8. Justin McKeating

    “Why do you *choose* to be homosexual when you know it is illegal in your own country?”

  9. Joanne Payton

    RT @chickyog: “Why do you *choose* to be homosexual when you know it is illegal in your own country?”

  10. john b

    Original post: shld be “discreet”, not “discrete”. Soz for pedanty.

    @trevmax: so, in 1939, you’d’ve been campaigning against the UK taking Jewish refugees, right? If not, then what’s the difference? Germany made Germany’s laws, and we had no right to interfere up to the point we had serious grounds to believe they’d invade the UK, right? Even then, the Jews were German citizens, so why should they have been our problem?

    (note to the seriously hard-of-thinking – of course I believe the UK’s actual attitude towards Jewish refugees in the 1930s was shameful, as is our attitude to LGBT refugees today)


    RT @LGBTAsylumNews: By us RT @leftfootfwd: Not all gayasylum-seekers sent back to face persecution:

  12. Gea Vox

    I am sorry to have to corroborate the post by Nanakaly Hawler, something only the day before yesterday I would have strenuously countered.

    Our LGBT organisation has been well and truly SCAMMED by a bogus ugadan Asylum Seeker, on whom we lavished support, money and indefatigable advocacy – fortunately all in our individual capacity, to protect the organisation.

    he was balied after much personal campaigning oin his behalf, to the address of two lesbian women who, after some 10 days, discovered that he had left their TV on the Adult Channel and had downloaded masses (we are talking 50+) heterosexual porn videos, not a single gay one amongst them, visiting almost 100 hetero porn web sites and infecting their laptop in the process.

    We are not sorry to be compassionate human beings, we are just glad to have learned a valuable lesson in good time, before taking our support all the way.

  13. neeil

    Hi, all i have read all the comments , but i dun know about the boys from Iran,
    I am from one of the Asian countries where gay marriage are not accepted , I am a student rite now living with my partner .
    i have threats from back home , now I am confused what should i do …

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