Rwanda and LGBT+ asylum

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2022 National LGBT+ Conference
22 September 2022
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with alarm the United Kingdom’s (UK) Conservative Government’s policy to remove LGBT+ refugees to Rwanda while their claim is being processed, as part of a wider policy.

Conference acknowledges Rwanda has agreed the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the UN Report on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity LGBT Populations. The country is also a signatory to the 2011 UN statement condemning violence against LGBT people and has joined nine other African countries to support LGBT rights.

Within Rwanda, however, domestic policy on LGBT+ rights is a grey area. The law on marriage recognises marriage between biological male and female. This law amplifies ambiguity on Rwanda’s stance on the legality of LGBT+ people, resulting in a fragile social environment.

According to a survey by The African Population and Health Research Center in partnership with the Health Development Initiative, even though Rwanda is considered progressive on LGBT+ issues, negative attitudes undermine the lives of sexual and gender minorities.

74% of the public said sexual acts or gender expressions of LGBT people are ungodly while 49% felt LGBT individuals were unnatural. 50% believed that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism resulted from too much freedom and liberty.

A significant number of LGBT+ people reported experiencing hostility from families and the larger community, such as at work, home and when trying to access health services. Stigma and discrimination against the LGBT+ community is commonplace.

LGBT+ people are also subjected to conversion therapy – where they’re taken for prayers in the hope that they’ll be exorcised from their homosexual tendencies.

The Home Office has admitted that LGBT+ refugees could be persecuted if sent to Rwanda – but still plans to fly them 4,000 miles to Kigali.

The department’s own equality impact assessment states there are “concerns” over the treatment of some LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda, and that investigations point to “ill treatment” of this group being “more than one off”.

The government’s assessment of Rwanda’s human rights record states that there are “not substantial grounds” to substantiate a risk of treatment contrary to the European convention on human rights. But the Foreign Office travel advice for Rwanda states that “individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals.”

Conference notes that the first plane to Rwanda carrying refugees was halted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). However, we know the UK Government will look for ways to diminish the powers of the ECHR in the UK.

Conference therefore instructs the national LGBT+ committee, working with the national executive council, national Black members’ committee and UNISON’s international committee as appropriate, to:

1. Work with Rainbow Migration and other appropriate organisations to lobby the Home Office to take urgent steps to prevent LGBT+ refugees being sent to Rwanda;

2. Work with Labour Link to raise these issues with the Labour Party.