MPs: LGBT asylum seekers face ‘bullying’ and ‘abuse’ in British detention centres

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A cross-party group of MPs and peers has criticised the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers detained in immigration detention centres across the UK.

The criticism is included in a report published today following a joint inquiry into the use of immigration detention by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration led by the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather.

The panel, which included a former cabinet minister, a former chief inspector of prisons, and a former law lord, considered evidence over 8 months and took evidence from the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group.

“We were extremely concerned to hear that LGBTI detainees face bullying, harassment and abuse inside detention centres,” the report states. “This is not acceptable. There is a lack of information available about the extent to which LGBTI individuals face detention and the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance make no mention of assessments of the risks to detaining LGBTI individuals.

“We recommend that the Home Office works with the Home Office National Asylum Stakeholder Forum to properly assess what risks there are and to ensure that those LGBTI individuals who do face detention do not also face harassment.”

The inquiry demands a fundamental change in the way that immigration detention is used in the UK and calls for a 28 day time limit on the length of time anyone can be held in immigration detention. The UK is one of only a few countries in the Council of Europe that has no upper time limit, meaning people can be detained for months or years.

Meanwhile, a member of staff at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre has been suspended after an undercover TV investigation filmed guards calling inmates “animals” and “bitches”.

The Channel 4 programme also showed officers at the privately-run facility threatening violence against detainees.

UKLGIG Executive Director Paul Dillane told PinkNews: “The use of immigration detention in the UK is out of control with more asylum seekers than ever before being detained for administrative convenience even though they have committed no crimes: it is extremely costly, damaging and unfair.

“We believe it is entirely unacceptable to effectively detain people indefinitely and we welcome the call for a 28 day maximum time limit on immigration detention.

“The Home Office is detaining increasing numbers of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people who seek asylum, often for weeks or months. Many complain about bullying, verbal abuse, physical violence and sexual harassment in immigration detention centres like Yarl’s Wood.”

Mr Dillane concluded: “Many of our clients – men and women from Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan – are fleeing life threatening persecution yet they are too often incarcerated in what are effectively immigration prisons and subjected to further homophobic and transphobic abuse.

“This is unacceptable and we urge the Home Secretary to take steps to tackle this discrimination and violence.”

In February, the Home Office published new guidance for caseworkers dealing with claims from people fleeing homophobic persecution, stating 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.

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

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