Report calling for better training of gay asylum caseworkers welcomed by lawyer

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A report highlighting the need of the Home Office to end the practice of asking gay asylum seekers inappropriate questions has been welcomed by one of the country’s leading asylum lawyers.

S Chelvan, barrister at No5 Chambers, created the DSSH (Difference, Stigma, Shame and Harm) model in 2011 as a humane method in establishing a gay asylum claim.

The model is endorsed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and is additionally adopted by governments which include New Zealand, Sweden and Finland.

In a review published on Thursday, Sir John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, detailed that a fifth of gay asylum interviews conducted by Home Office 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.

Responding to the review, S Chelvan told “The Independent Chief Inspector’s report highlights the clear need for guidance in formulating acceptable questions in investigating gay asylum claims. The report records the Home Office’s existing agreement to bring the DSSH model into training. Nevertheless, the report’s recommendation that more detail on the DSSH model needs to be provided in training caseworkers is welcomed.

“I have spoken to the Home Office this morning, who have agreed to explore avenues for further in-house training on the DSSH model. This should address directly the report’s finding that there still exists unacceptable questioning to elicit sexually explicit responses, or query the validity of same-sex relationships.”

Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), said Sir John’s report highlighted the need for further action by the Home Office.