Labour’s Diane Abbott: LGBT asylum seekers should not be sent back to homophobic countries

UK Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has called for the government to respect the right in a speech at the PinkNews summer reception in Parliament.

The Labour politician was speaking at the PinkNews summer reception in Westminster in partnership with Zurich, which follows events in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

She said: “We have seen great advances, but there remains much to change.

“LGBT young people make up a quarter of homeless people, the majority of whom face rejection, abuse and even violence in their home. Many of those young people have very tragic stories to tell. Last year, the TUC found that over one in three LGBT people had been harassed at work.”

“PinkNews is to be commended for a great many things, but they include its investigation on LGBT asylum seekers.

“Recent Home Office data shows only one quarter of applications based on sexual orientation was accepted.

“The majority were rejected, including some from the most violent homophobic regimes in the world. We’ve seen progress, there is more to be done, but if there’s a lesson of the past 30 years, it is that they arc of history bends slowly, but it bends towards justice.”

She added: “We’re here marking the 30th anniversary of Section 28, and I should remind you Parliament was a very different place 30 years ago. There was only one out LGBT MP, Chris Smith.

“Chris was a very good man and a wonderful MP, and very brave, but even Chris did not campaign as a gay candidate – he came out after he was elected.

“We’ve seem a great deal of change. 30 years later, not only is the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party a lesbian, she’s a pregnant lesbian. Please don’t tell me change doesn’t happen!

“30 years ago you could not get a resolution on LGBT rights passed at the Labour Party conference. I know, I was there in my dungarees storming the platform! I remember vividly the hostility there was to these issues in the Labour Party.

“But I have lived to see a Tory Prime Minister take same-sex marriage through the lobbies of Parliament. That’s an extraordinary thing. I found myself that evening shuffling through the lobby right behind David Cameron.

“We have seen great changes. We’ve heard about how the existence of Clause 28 meant there was an absence of a positive presence in schools, and that fed homophobia and bullying.”

Abbott called on the government to apologise to men persecuted under anti-gay laws, which Home Secretary Sajid Javid – who listened to Abbott’s speech – duly did less than five minutes later.


Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott speaks at the launch of Labour’s local election campaign at Stretford Sports Village on March 22, 2018 in Stretford (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Abbott was first elected a member of parliament in 1987 and was appointed Shadow Home Secretary in 2016. She is part of the British Labour Party and is an active supporter of LGBT+ rights. 

Abbott has written about HIV and AIDS across Africa for PinkNews and spoke out against “homophobic” media coverage of the HIV drug PrEP in 2016.

“If it was any other life-saving drug, the media would be applauding the campaigners who won the court victory,” she said. “Instead they are claiming that gay men are taking NHS funding that properly belongs to more ‘deserving’ sick people. And homophobia assertions are made about gay men’s lives.

“It all shows how much homophobia is, just below the surface, in society.”

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott speaks during a meeting with representatives of the Windrush generation at the House of Commons on May 1, 2018 in London (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

In 2015, Abbott also wrote for PinkNews in light of Pride in London to discuss how far the city has come in terms of LGBT rights and the importance of saving LGBT resources.

“We have come a long way from the dark days of bigotry, but we do have much further to go,” she said. “It’s a travesty to see so many of the key institutions of the LGBT community facing closure.”

PinkNews’ summer reception in Belfast last week was attended by all major Northern Irish party leaders, with DUP leader Arlene Foster making her first ever appearance at an LGBT event.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones spoke at the Cardiff reception, while the summer reception in Edinburgh on June 20 was addressed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.