Lib Dems’ LGBT group urges for better training of Home Office LGBT asylum caseworkers

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

In the wake of the government’s decision to abolish the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the Liberal Democrats’ LGBT group says LGBT asylum cases need to be handled better by officials.

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Theresa May 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.

UKBA, which is tasked with handling LGBT asylum cases, had a “defensive” and “secretive” culture, Mrs May said in the Commons.

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

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

However, the claims have always been denied by UKBA and the Home Office.

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

In November 2012, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused the coalition of breaking a promise to protect people seeking asylum based on their 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”.

Commenting on the break-up of UKBA, LGBT+ Lib Dems Chair Adrian Trett said: “We’re proud that the Lib Dem policy of recognising the plight of LGBT+ asylum seekers formed part of the Coalition Agreement. Never again should we see a home secretary justifying the return of an asylum seeker to a country where they face state murder.

“However, UKBA’s implementation of the new government policy has been controversial and poorly managed. While it’s right that people who are not LGBT+ or not facing persecution for the same do not have grounds for asylum, the new organisation must be trained to handle the cases of asylum seekers claiming persecution for being LGBT+ sensitively and with an open mind.”