Reform the Homophobic Asylum System

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2008 National LGBT Conference
22 July 2008
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the human rights abuses perpetrated within the country of origin of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who make asylum applications in the UK. It also acknowledges the serious failings of the UK Borders and Immigration Agency to appropriately process and investigate such applications.

Conference believes that urgent reforms need to be made to the UK asylum system to end the injustice whereby many LGBT refugees are being sent back to viciously anti-LGBT countries like Iran, Uganda, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia.

Conference notes:-

1Immigration staff, currently receive race and gender training but no training at all on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. As a result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman can’t be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their homosexuality. Home Office rulings that LGBT refugees should “go home and be discreet” is insulting, humiliating and puts the returnees at risk of arrest, imprisonment, torture, mob violence and even possible murder;

2At present the government’s documentation of anti-gay and anti-transgender persecution in individual countries is often partial, inaccurate and misleading. It consistently downplays the severity of victimization suffered by LGBT people in countries such as Pakistan, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Cameroon, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Palestine and Saudi Arabia;

3Insufficient legal aid means that most asylum applicants – LGBT or otherwise – are unable to prepare an adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Their solicitors don’t get paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical reports and other vital corroborative evidence;

4Many LGBT detainees report suffering LGBT victimisation, and say they fail to receive adequate protection and support from detention centre staff. These shortcomings need to be remedied by LGBT awareness training to ensure that detention centre staff take action against homophobic, biphobic and transphobic perpetrators anti-LGBT abuses, and that they are committed to protect LGBT detainees who are being victimised.

Conference therefore calls on the National LGBT Committee to work with partners such as International Lesbian and Gay Association to lobby the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to implement the following five key policy changes to ensure a fair hearing for LGBT asylum applicants:-

A.Ensure that asylum staff and adjudicators receive sexual orientation and gender identity awareness training;

B.The official Home Office country information reports – on which judges often rely when ruling on asylum applications – must be upgraded and expanded to reflect the true scale of anti-LGBT persecution;

C.Legal aid funding for asylum claims should be substantially increased;

D.The Home Office needs to issue official instructions to asylum detention centre staff that they have a duty to stamp out anti-LGBT abuse, threats and violence;

E.The government should issue explicit instructions to all immigration and asylum staff, and to all asylum judges, that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum.