Gay asylum group calls on Home Office to take ‘urgent’ action following critical report

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A review revealing that gay asylum seekers have been subjected to stereotyping and inappropriate questions by Home Office caseworkers requires “urgent consideration”, a leading campaign group has said.

Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), made the remarks in response to a review by Sir John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the review by Sir John in March, following a leaked report published by The Observer revealing that asylum seekers continue to face degrading “interrogations” about their sex lives by Home Office staff.

Sir John found a fifth of interviews conducted by caseworkers contained some stereotyping and a tenth contained questions of an unsatisfactory nature.

The Chief Inspector expressed particular concern about the treatment of sexual identity cases in the Detained Fast Track (DFT) process.

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

Sir John found there was inconsistent practice between teams dealing with detained and non-detained applicants. DFT accepted sexually explicit material submitted as evidence, whereas the non-detained areas did not.

The review revealed unsatisfactory questions were more than twice as common within the DFT and included questions likely to elicit sexually explicit responses or querying the validity of same-sex relationships.

UKLGIG Executive Director Paul Dillane said Sir John’s report highlighted the need for further action by the Home Office.

Mr Dillane told “We welcome the Chief Inspector’s report and his recommendations to the Home Office. The Chief Inspector found that stereotyping and inappropriate questions continue to occur and good policies, which we helped the Home Office develop, are not being applied consistently. The Home Office must take further action to improve asylum decision-making and ensure people whose lives are at risk because of their sexual identity are granted refugee protection in the UK.”

The campaigner continued: “The Chief Inspector expressed particular concern about the treatment of sexual identity cases in the Detained Fast Track (DFT) process. In our experience, the majority of gay, lesbian and bisexual people are detained upon claiming asylum – frequently for weeks or months – yet seeking asylum is not a crime.”

He concluded: “Sexual identity claims are inherently complex and should have no place in this detained process. We have serious concerns about conditions in immigration detention centres where people regularly recount instances of homophobic bullying, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and even sexual harassment from other detainees. The Home Office must ensure applicants are treated with dignity and respect, these issues (require) urgent consideration.”

Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “This report shows that the Home Office has a long way to go in fairly and effectively handling asylum claims based on sexual orientation, as is often the case, practice frequently fails to match up to guidance.

“Some of the findings in this report are of wider concern, as a lack of proper training and inappropriate questions being asked at screening interviews will impact on all asylum seekers’ claims.

“The Home Office makes decisions which can be life and death. It’s vital that it’s consistent in how it reaches these decisions and that all asylum seekers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”