Peter Tatchell: When it comes to LGBT asylum seekers, Labour’s Chris Bryant needs to know the facts

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Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is disputing claims made by Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant, that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has not deported LGBT asylum seekers in recent years.

Speaking to on Tuesday, Mr Bryant said he was not aware of “a decision [to] go in the wrong direction in the end.”

When asked if bad decisions were still on occasion being made by UKBA officials when it came to LGBT asylum cases, the Labour MP gave a hesitant response and refused to answer the direct question, he said: “I think as I say it is really difficult to… whilst intrinsically one sympathises with anybody who is caught in the situation where they live in a country where you’re not allowed to be gay; where you’re persecuted for your sexuality and so one, if you had an automatic [policy of] anybody who says there gay or lesbian will be granted asylum in this country, I think that would invite an awful lot of people who aren’t necessarily lesbian or gay to say that they are [in order] to try and circumvent the system.”

Human rights groups, MPs and lawyers have frequently documented alleged cases of UKBA deporting LGBT asylum seekers back to countries such as Uganda and Cameroon where they face persecution.

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

The government has never released statistics from immigration tribunals on how many people each year apply for asylum claiming that they face persecution because of their sexuality.

But according to the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), 98-99% of claims made by LGBT asylum seekers were rejected in 2010 – compared to 73% for claims made on other grounds.

Writing for, Peter Tatchell issued the following response to Mr Bryant’s remarks.

Contrary to what is claimed, the asylum system is still continuing to fail LGBT refugees. It is rigged to reject as many asylum claimants as possible. Many are imprisoned in detention centres, despite being innocents who have committed no crime. Others are fast-tracked, which gives them no time to prepare a proper asylum application.

Nearly all depend on legal aid, which has been cut to shreds, so most solicitors don’t have enough funds to gather the evidence needed to prove their client’s legitimate claim for refugee status. Some legal aid lawyers are sharks, who milk refugees to make a fast buck. They take the money and prepare shoddy, half-baked applications and appeals.

Many government asylum lawyers and judges have a culture of disbelief towards LGBT refugees. They are disinclined to believe their claims of homophobic persecution, even when presented with strong evidence.

The sexuality of LGBT asylum applicants is often disputed, despite love letters, shared bills and statements from partners and friends. In desperation, some refugees are photographing and filming themselves having gay sex, to prove to asylum lawyers and adjudicators that they are homosexual. This is degrading and humiliating.

Most LGBT refugees only win asylum if they are backed by a strong campaign or organisation, such as the Movement for Justice, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group or the Peter Tatchell Foundation.