Theresa May announces scrapping of ‘defensive’ and ‘secretive’ UK Border Agency

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A government agency that has repeatedly been accused of deporting LGBT asylum seekers is to be scrapped and split in two, Theresa May has confirmed.

Tuesday’s announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May is in relation to the UK Border Agency’s “defensive” and “secretive” culture.

She’s told MPs that the Border Agency’s performance was “not good enough” and said it is being split with its work moved back into the Home Office.

The UK Border Agency was formed in 2008 as an arms-length agency of the Home Office.

It is the second time the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has been split in just over a year.

“But the performance of what remains of UKBA is still not good enough. The Agency struggles with the volume of its casework, which has led to historical backlogs running into the hundreds of thousands”, Mrs May said.

For the past several years, human rights groups have frequently documented alleged cases of UK Border Agency officials deporting LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where they face homophobic persecution.

One of the most recent cases involved Jackie Nanyonjo, a lesbian who was deported back to Uganda in January; she died earlier this month in the country.

The Green Party’s LGBT campaign group subsequently criticised UKBA’s decision. Siobhan MacMahon Green Party spokesperson said: “Jackie Nanyonjo is not the first LGBTIQ asylum seeker to be deported to her death, and is sadly unlikely to be the last.”

In February, S Chelvan, a leading human rights lawyer criticised UKBA for subjecting LGBT asylum seekers to “inhuman and degrading” pressure in order to “prove” their sexual or gender identity.

Mr Chelvan spoke at the Law Society’s 11th Annual Stonewall Lecture, calling for a reform in the way the Border Agency treats LGBT asylum applications.

Both the Home Office and UKBA have always denied claims that its officials have attempted to deport LGBT asylum seekers.

Responding this month to the case of a man deported to Malawi, who claimed he was at risk of homophobic persecution, a spokeswoman said: “We have changed our guidance to ensure that we do not remove individuals who have demonstrated a proven risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation.

“Our position remains clear – when someone needs our protection, they will be given it.”

In November 2012, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused the government of breaking a promise to protect people seeking asylum based on sexual orientation.

Citing several alleged cases, he said: “These deportations violate David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s commitment to a fairer deal for LGBT refugees fleeing homophobic and transphobic persecution”.