British government persecutes LGBT refugees

This 1 July 2017 Dutch video from Amsterdam in the Netherlands is called Sports day for LGBT refugees.

Unfortunately, not all news about LGBTQ refugees in the Netherlands is good news. Sometimes, the Dutch government tries to deport them to war zones.

Unfortunately, bad news about LGBTQ refugees in Britain as well.

By Leila Zadeh in Britain:

Why is Britain still punishing LGBT asylum seekers?

Thursday 27th July 2017

People fleeing homophobic persecution too often find themselves subject to ill-treatment and discrimination here, says LEILA ZADEH

As we mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, LGBTQI+ people who seek sanctuary in Britain from persecution in other countries are subjected to invasive questioning and risk being detained indefinitely.

More than 70 countries in the world criminalise same-sex acts and many LGBTQI+ people are at risk from persecution for being who they are.

It is not unusual for LGBTQI+ people attending asylum interviews to be asked questions based on assumptions of what it is to be LGBTQI+, that focus on intimate details of their sexual conduct, or that re-traumatise individuals.

One person was recently asked what it felt like when they were being raped. Another was asked when they first had sex with their partner.

Others end up having to explain why they are not heterosexual. One man was recently told that the caseworker did not believe he was gay since some cross-dressers identify as straight.

The Home Office also puts some LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum into detention. Britain has one of the largest detention estates in Europe and, shockingly, is alone in detaining people for indefinite amounts of time.

At the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, we regularly visit people who have been detained for several months: people who have applied to stay in this country for fear of persecution — including beatings, rape and death — in their countries of origin.

Our joint research with Stonewall has found that in detention, LGBTQI+ people who are seeking asylum suffer discrimination, harassment and violence from other detainees.

People are made to share rooms with people who share similar prejudices and abusive behaviours to those they are trying to flee: people who are homophobic, biphobic or transphobic.

One person reported feeling as unsafe in the detention centre as they did in Pakistan.

“He was in the gallery and he called: ‘Hey! Mr Gay, I love you! I want to fuck you.’ I was so scared. I just went in my room. Here in detention it is the same as where I came from. I was so scared.”

Many have reported that detention centre staff have failed to act on such bullying. Detention can have serious effects on the physical well-being of LGBTQI+ people.

In detention, some have reported not receiving medication for heart conditions or HIV. Trans people on gender-affirming hormones are denied continued access to treatment, adversely affecting their mental and physical wellbeing.

The detrimental impact on mental health can also be long-lasting. LGBTQI+ people can suffer depression or panic attacks, or self-harm. Some detainees have attempted suicide.

After being released from detention, LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum often experience flashbacks, suffer memory loss or find themselves unable to sleep.

LGBTQI+ people are often excluded from communities from their countries of origin because of prejudice against them. Identifying and accessing LGBTQI+ support networks is challenging.

The experience of detention makes it hard for them to settle into society even when they have regained their freedom.

Detention can also restrict the ability of LGBTQI+ people to gather evidence in support of their asylum claims. LGBTQI+ people frequently need to provide evidence from witnesses in their countries of origin to testify to their sexual orientation or gender identity as part of their asylum applications.

In detention, they can find it almost impossible to contact people in their countries of origin discreetly to gather such evidence. Many of their contacts at home also fear persecution if they are associated with someone who identifies as LGBTQI+.

Restrictions on smartphones and social networking sites in detention can also stop LGBTQI+ people from gathering the evidence they need to pursue their cases and get written records of their past relationships.

Britain has made great strides in protecting and promoting the rights of LGBTQI+ people in the last 50 years. Our government also seeks to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people in other countries.

Yet its treatment of people from those same countries who seek protection on British soil stands in sharp contrast.

LGBTQI+ people from countries where they are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity hope that Britain’s record in respecting human rights will protect them.

They want to enjoy the freedoms that other LGBTQI+ people in Britain enjoy. Yet often they encounter a system that refuses to believe they are LGBTQI+ or that they face persecution, and adds to their trauma by putting them into detention for an indefinite amount of time.

More training is needed of Home Office caseworkers so that asylum interviews treat people with dignity.

Decision-makers also need to be better trained in assessing sexual orientation in asylum claims. The government should also aim to issue guidance soon on gender identity in asylum claims.

The government should ensure that vulnerable people like LGBTQI+ asylum-seekers are not put into detention centres and that all immigration detention has a time limit of 28 days.

Leila Zadeh is executive director of the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group.

4 thoughts on “British government persecutes LGBT refugees

  1. Thursday 27th July 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    The Sexual Offences Act was a landmark for gay rights, but we cannot afford to be complacent as discrimination is still widespread, writes PETER PURTON

    THE 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was the theme of LGBT History Month 2017 and many Prides.

    For young people it is ancient history, but to ignore what it represented is a mistake: the Act was only the starting point in a long process of social and legal change which has not yet ended, but who in these tumultuous times can predict the future?

    Leo Abse MP’s 1967 Bill, given space by Harold Wilson’s Labour government, was intended to implement the Wolfenden report, itself generated by high-profile scandals of prominent public figures prosecuted for homosexuality and anxiety within the Establishment about Soviet blackmail of British secret agents (Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean).

    The report lay dormant for 10 years under Tory governments and the Act itself was weakened to get it voted through. It ended by partially decriminalising male homosexual acts.

    One perverse consequence was an increase in arrests as police used the law’s provisions about the sex being “in private” and “over 21” to raid clubs and entrap men in toilets.

    Another unintended consequence was much more positive. Although supporters in Parliament announced that they had dealt with the unsavoury issue of same-sex relationships for good, the 1967 Act in fact led to a growing and more open social scene for the community, increased campaigning to achieve full equality and the birth of a new liberation movement.

    The new law was not only down to friendly heterosexual politicians: it had also been the result of patient lobbying by a few brave homosexual men and lesbians (the word “gay” had yet to be adopted) campaigning in a vicious climate where popular prejudice was everywhere as well as the law being entirely hostile.

    A key figure was Allan Horsfall, a trade unionist and one-time Labour councillor from north-west England, whose tiny organisation went on to become the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in 1969.

    CHE’s political objectives addressed the many shortfalls of the 1967 Act. It also created support networks for those who had nowhere (literally) to turn for help or contact with others.

    But this was also the era of the movements across the West for women’s equality, for black civil rights, against the Vietnam war, a mood of challenge to post-war austerity and individual freedom from suffocating social norms, especially among young people who had not lived through the second world war.

    It was therefore not really surprising that two years after the ’67 Act, the Stonewall Riot in New York gave birth to another movement — gay liberation.

    From 1970, young lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Britain embraced the movement and took to the streets to challenge society and the state.

    Fifty years on, LGBT (the letters signal recognition of the earlier exclusion of all apart from white non-disabled gay men, exclusions which are now recognised but have not yet been eliminated) people enjoy rights inconceivable in 1967, and popular acceptance the progress of which has gone hand in hand (sometimes ahead of, sometimes behind) legal reforms.

    The revolution in social acceptance has been the most impressive. Majority support for same-sex marriage was a dream even 10 years ago.

    But social change has multiple consequences. Some of these should cause alarm for the future. Our victories have also created vulnerabilities.

    It is a common perception that the battle is won, but it is not. There are still legal issues: exemptions from the ban on discrimination on grounds of religion, full equality for trans people awaits new laws and the inequality in pension benefits has only just now been addressed, not via Parliament but by the Supreme Court.

    Even more important is the reality that a third of the British population remains hostile, with (reported) hate crime second only in number to those on grounds of race.

    Many pupils thought to be LGBT continue to face bullying at school. Teenagers now come out younger and some get thrown onto the street by their parents.

    Lesbian, bi and gay workers faced two-and-a-half times more discrimination than heterosexuals in workplaces (2014).

    These are not small problems. Will time bring about continuous improvement? Who knows — the problem is that complacency and austerity have killed most campaigning.

    LGBT+ voluntary groups have been massacred by seven years of cuts. The largest LGBT charity, Stonewall, targets employers — all very well, but are employers really interested in anything but their bottom line?

    Just how far do (especially smaller) employers take their commitment to equality (compare the gender pay gap)? Do they invest in countries where homosexuality can lead to execution? Of course they do.

    Complacency also means that there is now no LGBT+ movement in Britain. Prides have become commercially dominated parties where politics finds it increasingly hard to be heard.

    It is not enough to complain. Just as today’s rights were born 50 years ago out of a broader culture of protest and resistance, today’s LGBT+ campaigners cannot work in isolation.

    Globally, clumsy support from Western governments is a two-edged sword because their opponents (such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin) enlist hostility to homosexuality as part of their appeal and leaders of some EU countries (Poland, Hungary) call on religion and the family to boost domestic ratings, and who knows what Donald Trump will do?

    Whether LGBT communities like it or not, our rights have become part of a highly polarised world and domestic conflict.

    The support of the British labour movement was (and is) critical in winning and holding what has been gained and today they represent one true ally, driven by LGBT+ trade unionists. They can, and must, link with others to fight for social justice in Britain and Europe, but also internationally, and recognise that LGBT equality is only possible when there is equality for all who do not have it. Only then can the job begun in 1967 be completed.

    Peter Purton was TUC LGBT officer from 1998-2016. His new book, Champions of Equality: Trade Unions and LGBT Rights will be published by Lawrence and Wishart in the autumn.,-the-LGBT-fight-is-not-over#.WXoZIFFpwdU


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