Home Office will ‘make changes’ to gay asylum process

Theresa May (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The Home Office has agreed to make a number of changes to the way that asylum claims from gay people are handled, after a report exposed several shortcomings.

Sir John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, released a report this week recommending reform, after a thorough review of the handling of asylum seekers who claim to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the review in March, after The Observer published a leaked report claiming that asylum seekers continue to face degrading “interrogations” about their sex lives by Home Office staff, who often asked questions sterotyping gay people.

The Chief Inspector found a fifth of interviews conducted by caseworkers stereotyped gay people, and a tenth contained questions of an unsatisfactory nature.

He also raised concern about treatment of sexual identity cases in the Detained Fast Track (DFT) process, with graphic photographs of sexual acts accepted as evidence of sexuality.

The Home Office has since responded to the report, accepting seven of his eight recommendations.

The response said: We are grateful to the Chief Inspector for highlighting shortcomings in some of the questioning at screening and the substantive asylum interview.

“We are also grateful to the Chief Inspector for highlighting some inconsistency in the handling of explicit material submitted by claimants and issues related to the quality of management information in sexual orientation cases.

“We agree with all of these points and are putting measures in place to address them.

“The Home Office accepts all eight of the Chief Inspector’s recommendations, seven in full and one in part.

“We are committed to treating all asylum claimants with respect and dignity and we will continue to improve on current practice in this area.

“The revised asylum instruction, currently in draft, makes it clear that stereotyping is inappropriate.

“[It makes] it absolutely clear that there are no circumstances in which it will be appropriate to initiate questions of a sexually explicit nature, and attempts to guide decision makers on responding to claimants who volunteer sexually explicit information.”