Baroness Barker: The ‘shockingly degrading’ treatment of LGBT asylum seekers must stop now

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Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Barker has called on the government to condemn and stop the “shockingly degrading” treatment of LGBT asylum seekers by Home Office caseworkers.

The Observer published on Saturday allegations from a leaked report of claimants being forced to answer humiliating questions about their sexual orientation.

Questions to one bisexual asylum seeker included: “Did you put your penis into x’s backside?” and “When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection? Did x ejaculate inside you? Why did you use a condom?”

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was “shocked” that Home Office officials were still questioning asylum seekers in such a manner.

During Monday evening’s House of Lords debate on the Immigration Bill, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Barker called on Home Office minister Lord Taylor to put a stop to the practice.

She said: “Noble Lords who read yesterday’s Observer will have seen that LGBT asylum seekers have been subjected to the most shockingly degrading line of questioning during their interviews.

“Does the Minister agree that demeaning and intimidating people just because they are gay has no part whatever to play in our justice system?

“Will he assure us that this is going to stop – and stop now? We are not Uganda. We do not treat gay people like that in this country, no matter how hard our times are.”

Lord Taylor failed to answer Baroness Barker’s direct question in his summing up of the Immigration Bill, but said reforms undertaken by Home Secretary Theresa May would help strengthen the decision-making process.

A Home Office spokesperson told “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we do not deport anyone at risk of persecution because of their sexuality.

“All applicants are required to establish they face persecution, inhumane or degrading treatment in their home country to qualify for our protection.

“We deal with any matters concerning an individual’s sexual orientation as sensitively as possible and staff are not permitted to ask inappropriate or intrusive questions.”

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

Writing for PinkNews last week, Green Party MEP candidate Caroline Allen said the UK had repeatedly failed those fleeing homophobic and transphobic persecution.