Friday, 4 June 2010

Scottish group ask for LGBT asylum change

Source: UK Gay News

The Glasgow-based campaigning LGBT Network is asking the Government in London what action it is taking to address the serious issues on LGBT asylum in the UK.

Today, the group has written to Damien Green, the minister for immigration in the new coalition government.

LGBT Network claims that the situation facing gay men and women who claim asylum in the UK is “only getting worse by the day”.

“Most gay people know of the horrific cases of LGBT people escaping persecution from Iran to Zimbabwe, coming to Britain and finding only more discrimination and in the vast majority of cases, deportation,” they say.

“I see the emails come in to us every day from gay people from all over the world, and it’s heartbreaking because there is simply nothing we can do,” Alison Burton, a LGBT Network volunteer, said this afternoon.

“We can’t suggest that they seek asylum in Britain, because it seems that every gay person that does make the awful journey here just ends up being sent back again.

“I just don't know what to say,” she admitted.

Last week, Stonewall published a report that found 98% of all asylum claims based on sexual orientation were refused.

The letter from LGBT Network asks the Government how the Network should respond to the painful requests for help it gets from distraught gay people around the world, and what the Government is actually going to do about gay asylum.

“We know that LGBT people across the world suffer horrific persecution and discrimination, and we know that the British Government doesn’t seem to care,” Network director Nick Henderson told UK Gay News.

“We are worried that there is a genocide going on against gay people, and Britain is turning a blind, but increasingly guilty eye.”

Individuals can keep up pressure on the Government by contacting the Home Office and the new Immigration Minister Damien Green by emailing public.enquiries(at), calling 020 7035 4848, or ‘Tweeting’ @ukhomeoffice.


Dear the Minister for Immigration,

I write as director of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) charity, to seek advice on issues relating to refugees and asylum claims.

We receive a daily stream of distraught emails from LGBT people from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, all requesting help from us. Compared to the rest of the world, Britain is one of the most tolerant nations on earth for LGBT people, one of the few safe places where gay men and women can live and work in peace and security. This is a record Britain should be proud of, and that our work only seeks to build on. Because of this, gay people from around the world who are discriminated against and persecuted in their own countries see Britain as a shining light in a dark, dark world.

As someone who has worked with LGBT refugees for a number of years throughout the tenure of the previous Government, I am very much aware that the previous Government routinely ignored the plight of LGBT refugees, sending countless people back to the countries they fled from to face imprisonment, torture, and in many cases death.

The recent case in Malawi, where a gay couple were imprisoned, simply for being gay, and only released after significant international pressure highlights this as an issue that requires action today. In months and years gone by, it was a proposed death sentence for gay people in Uganda, then hangings of gay teenagers in Iran, honour killings of gay people by their families in Turkey, the epidemic of ‘corrective’ rape against lesbians in South Africa and much of the Caribbean, pogroms of gay areas in Jamaica, intimidating violence at Russian pride marches, co-ordinated massacres of gay people in Iraq, and the list goes on and on, back through time to the hundreds of thousands of gay people murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

The previous Government refused to consider any of these factors in the asylum claims of gay people fleeing persecution. I have personally witnessed the Kafkaesque nature of the asylum process. Our organisation worked with one individual who had fled from Syria with a bullet in his arm and torture scars still visible, only to have his passport removed by UK officials and his Home Office interpreter attached to Syrian Intelligence.

Asylum officials were not interested in any such details, and simply suggested that the individual should be more ‘discreet.’ I remind you that sexuality is not simply a sexual preference, but an integral part of an individual’s personality, a part of their soul. One can no more be discrete about sexuality than about ethnicity, political views or deeply held religious convictions, which are all protected under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

I write to ask for advice or clarification on two key points:

1) How should we respond to the painful requests for assistance from gay people writing to us from countries where they are persecuted?

Currently, we have to delete most of these emails as soon as we receive them, as their horrific nature and tales of terror inflicted on their authors are deeply upsetting to our staff, who are unable to provide any useful advice or information on how their asylum claims might fare in Britain. I would therefore like to know if the Home Office and asylum authorities are going to change the way gay peoples asylum claims are processed to seriously and explicitly take into account the dangers they face in their home countries because of their sexuality.

2) What information can we feed back to our members on what the Coalition Government is doing on LGBT asylum and refugees?

Our membership and the ordinary British gay community we come into contact with in our work are becoming increasingly concerned and angry about the lack of any action whatsoever from the British Government in the last decade on this ever more critical issue. Many of our members are seriously concerned that crimes against humanity are being committed against LGBT people in countries where they are persecuted across the world, and that the British Government and decision makers in the asylum services are complicit in these crimes against humanity for their failure to act on the persecution that is taking place. Some are even worried that the British Government is turning a blind eye to what will be come to seen as the gay genocide; that officials and ministers stood idly by whilst acts of genocide are being committed against LGBT people.

Will you as the Minister for Immigration be making policy changes; give public statements on this issue; or at least offer us private assurances that we can pass on to our worried members that this is a priority for the Government?

I hope that you will be taking swift measures to ensure that LGBT people who need to seek refuge in our country are able to do so, because it is time for action, and action now.

Nick Henderson
Director, LGBT Network

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