Thursday, 16 June 2011

Major campaign launched for LGBT asylum seekers in UK, call for their removal from 'fast track' to removal

Eddy Cosmas (centre) at NUS LGBT conference
By Paul Canning

Two major progressive campaigning groups have jointly launched a campaign on the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers by the UK.

The campaign by the US-based international group and the British group 38 Degrees calls for the release of Tanzanian gay asylum seeker Edson 'Eddy' Cosmas and the removal of all sexuality based asylum claims from the 'fast track' system.
The group Movement for Justice, of which Eddy is a member, have been campaigning for him for several weeks.

As we have been documenting, Eddy has been told by an immigration judge that there is no risk for gay men in Tanzania.

Eddy told by phone from the Harmondsworth detention centre:
"Of course I’m in danger there in my country, They know who I am. They’ll arrest me when I get back there."
'Detained fast track' was introduced over a decade ago to deal with rocketing asylum claims and a large backlog of cases. It is all about removing people as quickly as possible because they're supposed to have no real claim - but we already know that the vast majority of sexuality-based claims are being rejected when first examined, meaning that probably most of them end up in 'fast track'.

In their May report 'Fast track to despair', reproduced below, Detention Action said:
"Our research suggests that the Detained Fast Track system is structured to the maximum disadvantage of asylum-seekers at every stage. Conditions and timescales operate to make it impossible for many asylum-seekers to understand or actively engage with the asylum process. Yet this system is entirely unnecessary, as the circumstances it was designed to address no longer exist."'
Fast track' leads to LGBT who may have been tortured and abused being automatically detained, often with fellow countrymen or women who continue that abuse. Yet earlier this year the government rejected a request that because their claims are always complex they, as a group, should be excluded from 'fast track'.

Because of a shortage of lawyers experienced with LGBT cases, charities like UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) who are stretched and because of the pressure of time in 'fast tracked’ cases, the sort of complex work which needs to be done to present - and win - a case very often simply does not happen.

Eddy Cosmas is 'lucky' because his case has drawn attention. There are many other LGBT asylum seekers whose cases are not known and face being removed - breaking the government's promise - to danger. This has already happened with those from dangerous countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Jamaica.

UKLGIG in their landmark report last year described the Home Office as "cruel and discriminatory." Stonewall's report last year had 21 recommendations for changes to make the system fair for LGBT - only three have been addressed.

Removing LGBT asylum cases from ‘fast track’ would be a real step towards meeting that government promise.

Fast Track to Despair
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