Gay immigration group: Home Office system still ‘extremely unfair’ for LGBT asylum seekers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

“There has been progress” in improving the way LGBT asylum cases are handled, but the system is still “extremely unfair”, the head of a leading campaign organisation says.

Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), told PinkNews that the number of LGBT asylum seekers, which the organisation has worked with, returned to countries where they face persecution has fallen in recent years – however “a range of problems continue” to conspire against claimants.

UKLGIG’s Missing the Mark report of September 2013 showed 47 lesbians and gay men were granted asylum last year. In 2008 the figure was 18.

“I want to be clear that there has been progress”, Mr Dillane said to “In 2010 our research identified over a three-year period that 98-99% of our clients had been refused asylum because of the old ‘go back and be discrete’ principle. The Supreme Court ruled against that in 2010, and both the Lib Dems and the Tories gave a commitment to reform.

“We work closely with the Home Office as an expert in this field to develop policies and to develop training [in order] to try and improve standards within the Home Office.

“There has been improvement. In a research report UKLGIG published in 2013, we identified that more of our clients have been granted asylum than was previously the case from countries that are extremely homophobic and transphobic, including Uganda, Cameroon, Jamaica, etc.

“But a range of problems continue. And those good policies that we have helped develop are not filtering down to the decision-making coalface in all cases. We still see inappropriate, insulting and demeaning questioning in the asylum interviews [and also] the prevalence of unhelpful and false stereotypes in this system, so there is much more work to do.”

In June, Conservative minister Baroness Susan Williams admitted that the UK Government did not know how many asylum claims were made on the basis of sexual orientation.

Mr Dillane believes the government’s position is unacceptable.

He said: “We know how many people come to the UK to claim asylum every year across the board. We know how many are men, women, and what countries they come from, we know how many are refused, how many are granted, how many are detained, but we do not have those statistics for LGBTI people, we simply don’t know, the Home Office has never released those stats.

The Home Secretary has ordered an independent investigation into the asylum system for LGBTI people because of some of the criticisms that have been made. UKLGIG have worked very closely to feed into that inquiry.

“I am hoping one of the key things the Home Office will do is to give us those statistics because we cannot judge the scale of the issue, and the progress that has been made, without those statistics.”

The lawyer also strongly criticised the use of detention centres for LGBT asylum seekers.

Earlier this summer, the High Court ruled that fast track detention, a system used to process the vast majority of cases, was “unlawful”.

“What we do know is that more and more of our clients all the time are being detained by the government,” Mr Dillane said. “This is a new phenomenon that we haven’t experienced to the same degree in past years.

“And the reality is if you come to this country from Kampala, or from Kingston in Jamaica, and you ask for human rights protection because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you are very likely to be detained for an unspecified period of time – in a system that is extremely unfair.”

Mr Dillane spoke to PinkNews last week at the production of Eye of a Needle at the Southwark Playhouse.

The play explores the challenges faced by LGBT asylum seekers. It was inspired by the real case of Ugandan campaigner Brenda Namigadde.