Charity welcomes new Home Office guidance for gay asylum cases

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New Home Office guidance for caseworkers dealing with claims from people fleeing homophobic persecution has been welcomed by the head of a leading campaign organisation.

The guidance was published today in response to last year’s critical report by Borders and Immigration Chief Inspector John Vine.

Mr Vine found a fifth of asylum interviews contained stereotyping and a tenth contained inappropriate questions likely to elicit a sexual response.

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the review by Mr Vine in March last year, following a leaked report published by The Observer revealing that gay asylum seekers continued to face degrading “interrogations” about their sex lives by Home Office staff.

Today’s new guidance states that caseworkers must conduct “a sensitive enquiry into the development and exploration of the claimant’s sexual identity and the extent to which it is relevant to the assessment of the need for protection. It should not be an enquiry into any explicit sexual activity.”

The guidance says caseworkers “must not stereotype the behaviour or characteristics of lesbian, gay or bisexual persons” and that “it is important to recognise that some individuals may hold a completely different perception of their own sexual identity from those implied by the term LGB, or may be unaware of labels used in Western cultures.”

The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) has welcomed the guidance, describing it as a “first step in tackling poor standards of decision-making”.

UKLGIG Executive Director Paul Dillane told PinkNews: “I welcome the publication of this new guidance which provides a positive framework in which the asylum claims of lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers can be determined.

“However, this guidance is only the first step in tackling poor standards of decision-making.

“Now we need implementation: civil servants correctly applying the law and the Home Office’s own instructions.

“The treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers needs to improve and standards of decision-making need to get better in order to ensure people whose lives are at risk because of their sexual identity are granted refugee protection.”