‘Inhumane’ migration bill putting LGBTQ+ people at risk as asylum claims soar

People hold up signs bringing awareness to the plight of LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum abroad including a sign reading 'silence is support for discrimination' and another reading 'LGBT refugees don't feel safe in the camps'

The UK government should create a compassionate asylum system for LGBTQ+ people instead of clinging to the inhumane Illegal Migration Act, an activist has said.

Home Office data, released towards the end of last month, revealed that 1,334 lesbian, gay and bisexual people applied for asylum based on sexual orientation in 2022 (the data only specified LGB claims). 

That’s an increase of almost 89 per cent from the 707 claims received by the Home Office the year before. 

Claims which included sexual orientation as part of the basis for seeking asylum made up just two per cent of the total number last year, and 739 people were granted asylum or other forms of leave for this reason – a nine per cent rise from 2021. 

This was out of 1,024 initial decisions, with the number covering cases lodged in previous years as people endure long waits for the Home Office to make a decision on their claim. 

However, the Home Office noted that these asylum seekers may not have been granted protection based on the sexual orientation portion of their claim. Others may have made successful claims on another basis. 

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Digging deeper into the figures, over half (54 per cent) of all applications received from Ugandan nationals were from queer people. 

Approximately 32 queer people from Uganda applied for asylum in the UK in 2022 – a 357 per cent increase from the seven people who applied a year earlier. 

It’s a stark reminder that queer people in Uganda face terrifying persecution and discrimination after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, enacted one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in May.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposes the death penalty for queer people found guilty in so-called “aggravated” cases – which include rape, child sexual abuse, incest and people living with HIV having sex. 

The legislation has fuelled increased levels of violence against LGBTQ+ Ugandans, who are living in fear of their lives and safety in the East African country.

Rainbow Migration, a UK-based charity that helps LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum, claim the Conservative government’s Illegal Migration Act will “make it almost impossible for LGBTQI+ Ugandans to find safety in the UK”. 

Under the law, those who enter the UK “illegally” – in a small boat or in the back of a lorry, for example – will be detained and later deported to another country. 

The legislation has been roundly condemned by LGBTQ+ activists, human rights advocates, charities, politicians and the United Nations refugee agency

Leila Zadeh, executive director of Rainbow Migration, criticised the “inhumane” act and said it never should have come into force. 

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

A person holds up a sign reading 'Refugees welcome stop the far right' as a barge is set to house asylum seekers, including LGBTQ+ people, who came to the UK through what the government deems 'illegal' means
LGBTQ+ activists, charities and politicians have condemned the UK government’s Illegal Migration Act. (Getty)

Under the act, the government has a legal duty to detain and remove asylum seekers to either their country of origin or another “safe” third nation. 

Albania is among the countries deemed safe under the legislation, but the number of queer asylum seekers heading to Britain’s shores from there has also increased dramatically in recent years. 

The number of LGB asylum applications from Albanian nationals almost tripled between 2021 and 2022, rising from 24 to 65 claims last year. 

The UK government acknowledged and granted the claims of 13 queer Albanian people in 2022, more than doubling the number given asylum or other forms of leave the year before. 

“By granting asylum to LGB Albanians, this government is acknowledging that Albania is a dangerous country for the community, where they can face life-threatening situations,” Zadeh said. 

“However, when the Illegal Migration Act fully comes into force, LGBTQI+ people could be sent to Albania or any other of the 56 countries this government considers safe.”

During the bill’s passage through parliament, the government was accused of ramping up anti-refugee rhetoric

Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson said those who don’t want to be housed on a barge should “f**k off back to France”, while home secretary Suella Braverman admitted that seeing a flight take asylum seekers to Rwanda is her “dream [and] obsession”.

LGBTQ+ refugees have told PinkNews that they’ve endured homophobic housemates, racism and been “vilified and demonised” as they fought for asylum in the UK. 

The recent Home Office statistics showed that dozens of LGBTQ+ people from Nigeria, Ghana, Iran, Nigeria and Iraq were granted asylum in 2022. 

Pakistani nationals accounted for the largest number of queer asylum claims over the past six years. Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan and punishable by possible life imprisonment. In 2022 alone, 278 queer people applied for asylum in the UK after fleeing persecution there. 

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