UK asylum accommodation ‘unacceptable’ for LGBTQ+ migrants, says Women and Equalities Committee

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The UK government is being urged to undertake an urgent review of all asylum accommodation, with a parliamentary committee calling the current housing of vulnerable people, including LGBTQ+ migrants, unacceptable.

A report by the Women and Equalities Committee looked into the UK’s asylum process and issues of equality within it.

The report explored issues around people making asylum claims relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, with witnesses claiming the Home Office had “a predominant focus on whether the claimant was genuinely a member of a sexual-orientation minority group” and that focusing on whether the claimant was part of the LGBTQ+ community “led to other potential grounds for asylum being overlooked at the initial decision stage”.

The report flagged up Home Office guidance that mentions sexual orientation claims are to be based on the claimant’s “actual or perceived sexual orientation”, and that other grounds for granting asylum, such as race and national identity, can come into play in sexual-orientation-based cases.

The committee also heard allegations of people being disadvantaged by biased or prejudiced interpreters affecting cases based on sexual orientation when claimants were being interviewed, including “mistranslating, rebuking or judging people, or being dismissive of their fears such as the death penalty” as well as issues around translating criticisms of religious beliefs.

LGBTQ+ migrants put in ‘dangerous situations’

LGBTQ+ migrant charity Rainbow Migration has called on the government to treat asylum seekers in the UK with kindness.

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“This report, for which Rainbow Migration gave oral and written evidence, is sending a very clear message to this government. The inhumane policies towards people seeking asylum in the UK have to stop immediately,” says Leila Zadeh, the executive director of Rainbow Migration.

“This government’s legislation will put LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in dangerous situations, by detaining them in greater numbers and sending them to countries where they could face discrimination and violence.

“Instead, this government needs to focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness”.

The Women and Equalities Committee has recommended there be a new training programme for interpreting information gathered in claims, as well as establishing a religious impartiality and LGBT-sensitivity training programme.

Ensuring asylum accommodation provided “a decent, safe standard” was also mentioned with the committee noting that it had heard from researchers who described LGBTQ+ people facing hate crimes and living in “constant fear” of abuse and violence from other asylum seekers as well as from accommodation staff.

The report called for “a needs-based risk assessment of all accommodation facilities – including barges – before any women, families, children or LGBT people at risk of hate crime are housed alongside single men.” Otherwise, some would leave to avoid homophobia or transphobia, only to face homelessness and destitution, possibly even being forced into sex-work to avoid rough sleeping.

‘Inadequate management’

As a result, the committee ultimately recommended that the Home Office increase its dedicated safe asylum accommodation for LGBT people, and undertakes needs-based risk assessments for anyone with vulnerabilities, including LGBT people.

Committee chairwoman Caroline Nokes said they were “disturbed by the Home Office’s inadequate management of risks of harm to asylum seekers with protected characteristics”.

The Conservative MP added: “Alarmingly, these risks will increase under the government’s recent and planned reforms.”

The government has to respond to the report within two months.