Chuka Umunna: UK treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is ‘grossly humiliating, disrespectful’

The Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna has condemned the Home Office’s policy towards LGBT+ asylum seekers, who he says are treated in “the most grossly humiliating, disrespectful manner.”

Umunna made the comments at the PinkNews summer reception at Church House in Westminster, London, on Thursday (July 4). He spoke of the many LGBT+ asylum seekers he meets in his constituency surgeries.

He said: “I’m incredibly proud to represent the Borough of Lambeth which has one of the biggest LGBT+ populations in the countrybut we can’t take for granted that progress is going to be maintained, or even be confident that the progress that we have seen is not going to go backwards.

“I have LGBT+ constituents coming to me, asylum seekers who not only have been treated in the most grossly humiliating, disrespectful manner by the Home Office and our Border Force authorities who refuse to believe in their identity, but are also at threat of being sent to countries where to be LGBT+ is not only a crime but puts you at risk of death.”

Home Office is “setting the bar too high” for LGBT+ asylum seekers

Thousands of LGBT+ people who are persecuted in their home countries seek refuge in the UK every year. But the Home Office has come under fire for routinely disbelieving LGBT+ asylum claims and placing too great a burden of proof on those seeking asylum.

Stonewall reported LGBT+ asylum seekers being bullied, unlawfully detained, and asked to “prove” how gay they were. A fifth of asylum interviews contained stereotyping and a tenth contained inappropriate questions likely to elicit a sexual response.

The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) revealed that between 2017 and 2015, the rate of people granted asylum on the basis of sexuality fell from 39 percent to 22 percent, with LGBT-related claims less likely to be approved on average.

UKLGIG executive director Leila Zadeh called the decline “extremely worrying,” adding: “The Home Office is setting the bar too high for LGBT+ people.”

In light of this “continued discrimination” against LGBT+ people, it was announced that the Home Office and National Crime Agency would not be permitted to have stalls at the UK Black Pride Parade, which takes place on Sunday (July 7).

UK Black Pride 2018. (Facebook)

UK Black Pride issued a statement: “In light of the Home Office’s and the National Crime Agency’s continued discrimination against the communities we represent… [we have] taken the decision to remove both the Home Office’s and the NCA’s stalls from our event.

“On reflection, and after concerns raised on social media, we realise it was an error in judgement to allow the Home Office and the NCA spaces at UK Black Pride.”

In response, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office is committed to supporting the LGBT+ community, both as employees and as an integral part of the public we serve, and we are disappointed by this decision.”

Umunna has voted consistently in favour of LGBT+ reforms

Umunna was joined by several politicians and business leaders at the PinkNews event, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Labour MP Emily Thornberry and Lord Speaker Norman Fowler. Together they celebrated Pride season and recent legislative successes in the LGBT+ community.

An MP since 2010, Umunna has voted consistently for LGBT+ rights and same-sex marriage. At the PinkNews event he said “there is no doubt about it that there is a big battle going on” in the LGBT+ discourse, adding: “We cannot be at all complacent about this agenda.”

The Westminster reception was supported by lead partner Gilead, supporting partner Octopus Group, and charity partners Pride in London. Emily Thornberry announced nominations for the PinkNews Business Equality Award and the Role Model Award.