Scottish Greens: UK treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is ‘brutal and inhumane’

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The co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, says successive governments at Westminster have failed to protect the rights of LGBT asylum seekers.

Mr Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, made the remarks in response to a questionnaire submitted to Scotland’s six main political leaders by the Equality Network.

The Green Party in Scotland supports Scottish independence and Mr Harvie argues a Yes vote on 18 September could allow Scotland to create its own fairer asylum system.

“The UK’s asylum system has been allowed by successive UK governments to become brutal, humiliating and inhumane,” the MSP said.

“Instead of being designed to ensure that asylum is available to those who need it, the system appears designed to reject as many applications as possible.

“In that context the UK has moved somewhat away from the practice of routinely telling LGBTI applicants that they should return to their country of origin and ‘live discreetly’ to avoid persecution, however the practice of demanding that applicants provide material ‘proof’ of their innate sexual orientation or gender identity remains prevalent.”

Mr Harvie added: “This is an absurd and offensive requirement, and we have no doubt that people are being unreasonably denied asylum and deported to unsafe places because of this requirement.”

In a recent PinkNews interview, UK Justice Minister Simon Hughes admitted that further improvements in the decision-making process by Home Office caseworkers are needed.

Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), told PinkNews that progress has been made in improving the way LGBT asylum cases are handled, but the system is still “extremely unfair”.

Whilst admitting the Home Office still had problems, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the issue of LGBT asylum would best be dealt with at a UK-wide level, without Scottish independence.

But Mr Harvie disagrees. “Without doubt an independent Scotland would allow the creation of a system which fully respects LGBTI equality and human rights, and which protects LGBTI asylum applicants who have a fear of persecution,” he said.

“At present such applicants are often treated appallingly by the tribunal system, given poor legal representation and a lack of emotional support, and go without political representation as many MPs simply refuse to advocate for them.”

He added: “If there is a No vote we will continue to put pressure on the UK Government and the UK Borders Agency to change its policies and practice, and rebuild a humane asylum system.

“However the UKBA has consistently refused to engage with Members of the Scottish Parliament who are seeking to represent their constituents on these matters, and there seems no prospect of a change of political leadership on this issue from within the UK political landscape.”