Study reveals LGBT people seeking asylum to the UK ‘lack specialist support’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A study conducted at the University of Liverpool has reported on the lack of “safe spaces” and specialist care for LGBT people seeking asylum to the UK.

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

A review found a fifth of interviews contained some stereotyping and a tenth contained questions of an unsatisfactory nature.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration warned that the Home Office “must ensure” caseworkers do not ask gay asylum seekers “sexually explicit questions”, 

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reports the study on LGBT asylum seekers, led by Jennifer New from the University of Liverpool, is to be presented at the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

Steve Earle, Services Manager at Sahir House, said: “This research project will have a significant impact on improving services for LGBT people seeking asylum in the UK, including those living with HIV.

“The research carried out so far highlights the problems in the UK asylum process including the degrading nature of Home Office interviews and the extremes that people have to go to, to ‘prove’ their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Sahir House and North Cheshire’s HIV charity have worked alongside the University of Liverpool to develop the research project.

Jennifer New, along with fellow research student Deborah McCormick, carried out interviews with healthcare service providers.

According to their research, there is a lack of “safe spaces” where LGBT people can disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.

The research also indicated a need for legal support and specialist interpreters properly trained in LGBT issues.

Jennifer New said: “Understanding LGBT people’s experiences of the asylum process and relevant support services is vital in order to push for change in the service provision that is available to LGBT people seeking asylum and refugees in Liverpool and Merseyside.

“As one of the key areas for asylum dispersal, Liverpool must show its acceptance and sensitivity towards people seeking asylum who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, including those who are HIV positive, and support organisations must work together to improve the provision that is available for these highly vulnerable groups in the future.”

In the second stage of her research, Jennifer New will research the experiences of LGBT people seeking asylum in Liverpool, along with an analysis of Home Office and tribunal decisions.