Lib Dem MP says Home Office appears ‘institutionally homophobic’ on asylum

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A Liberal Democrat MP has accused the Home Office and the UK Border Agency of appearing “institutionally homophobic” in cases of gay asylum seekers.

Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, wrote to immigration minister Damien Green on behalf of a gay Ugandan constituent who was due to be deported on Monday.

Robert Segwanyi, 33, says he was tortured and jailed in Uganda for being gay but an immigration judge ruled there was no evidence that he is gay and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder – in contrast to a psychiatrist’s report.

His return to Uganda, a notoriously homophobic country, was deferred at the last minute.

In a letter to Mr Green dated July 11th, Mr Hancock wrote that he had “grave concerns … that this case shows that the UKBA and the Home Office are institutionally homophobic”.

Calling for a judicial review, he added: “There should be better consideration of this case so that [they] can demonstrate that [they are] not.”

The letter also cited a 2010 Stonewall report on gay asylum seekers, which said the UKBA was making “fundamental errors of judgement and presumption” in dealing with gay asylum seekers.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that gay asylum seekers could not be returned to homophobic countries on the basis that they can be “discreet” about their sexuality.

The coalition government has promised that gay asylum seekers who face a real risk of persecution will not be deported.

LGBT asylum campaigner Paul Canning told “There is no question that these attitudes persist in the department – and in the judiciary. Clearly the message has not got through that these cases are now to be treated differently – meaning that LGBT people are at risk of being returned to unsafe countries like Uganda, breaking the government’s promise.”

“I have seen the Home Office’s Business Plan for the rest of this parliament – they have no plans to do anything more. This is a broken promise on LGBT asylum.” is awaiting comment from the Home Office.

Mr Segwanyi, who is currently in Haslar Detention Centre, came to the UK in June 2010 after, he says, escaping prison in Uganda.

He applied for asylum shortly after arrival but was denied leave to stay in the UK and an immigration judge rejected his appeal.