Kaleidoscope Trust: "Specific experiences of lesbian and bisexual women rendered invisible"
Home Office publishes statistics showing number of asylum claims based on sexual orientation
New data published by the UK Home Office shows - for the first time - the number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised as part of the basis for the claim, as well as the outcome of those claims and the number of appeals
It sets out that an estimated 6% of all asylum claims received between 1 July 2015 and 31 March 2017 were linked to sexual orientation, with the highest numbers coming from Pakistan (1,000 – 20% of Pakistani asylum claims over the period), Bangladesh (454, 14%) and Nigeria (362, 18%).
However, the nationalities with the highest proportion of total claims based on sexual orientation were Uganda (67%), Cameroon (38%) and Tanzania (32%).
The data also shows that Pakistani nationals saw the highest volume of grants (233), while the nationalities with the highest proportion of grants were Uganda (55%), Iran (52%) and Jamaica (37%).
Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said: “This Government is committed to an asylum system which is supportive and responsive to those claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“All asylum claims lodged in the UK, including those on the grounds of sexuality, are carefully considered in accordance with our international obligations. Decision-makers are given dedicated training and guidance on how to handle such claims.
“No one who is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm in their country of origin because of their sexuality will be returned.”
The statistics do not show whether sexual orientation was the sole basis for the asylum claim; whether it was raised as the basis for the claim at the time it was made or raised at a later stage; or whether the sexual orientation element of the claim had any bearing on the outcome (a claim may be based on multiple factors).
They also do not show the number of asylum claimants who define themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
LBT women rendered "invisible"
Paul Dillane, Executive Director of The Kaleidoscope Trust, a leading charity working to uphold and advance human rights and equality for LGBT people internationally, welcomed the news but believes more needs to be done to ensure LBT women are "genuinely supported and protected":
“How many LGBT people seek asylum in the UK? Despite well-documented instances of discrimination, disbelief and detention experienced by LGBT asylum seekers, it has been impossible to answer this question until this week.
“After years of intensive campaigning, the UK Home Office have finally begun to published statistics. This is a welcome step forward but they raise a series of concerns: the statistics do not provide any information as to why a person seeking asylum on account of their sexuality was refused, trans people are entirely excluded and no information is provided about how many people were detained upon seeking asylum.
"Seeking asylum is not a crime yet the UK detains more asylum seekers than any other country in Europe. Given the brutal conditions experienced by LGBT people in immigration detention, this is an issue which requires urgent attention.
“Significantly, the statistics published are not disaggregated meaning the specific experiences of lesbian and bisexual women are rendered invisible. Due to pervasive gender inequalities, lesbian, bisexual and trans women are often at risk of particular forms of human rights abuses including domestic violence, forced or underage marriage, trafficking and marital rape.
Their experiences of fleeing persecution and seeking asylum differ from those of gay and bisexual men. For these reasons, it is vital women’s asylum claims and reforms designed to improve their treatment are approached in an intersectional manner or they face being wrongly refused and returned to a country where their life and liberty may be in grave danger.”
“Asylum claims by LGBT people are often matters of life or death. All too often, the specific needs of lesbian, bisexual and trans women are ignored or neglected. We urge the UK Home Office to take specific steps to improve standards, training and the quality of decision-making to ensure women fleeing persecution on account of their sexuality and gender identity are genuinely supported and protected.”
The statistics come after a number of high profile case involving LBT women, one of the most widely reported on being the case of Aderonke Apata. Apata faced a 13 year battle for her right to remain in the UK, before being granted refugee status in August 2017.
Through this, Apata founded African Rainbow Family, an organisation supporting LGBTI people of African heritage in the UK. DIVA spoke to the organisation on the release of the Home Office statistics:
"African Rainbow Family is worried that the statistics are being called 'experimental'. The shocking number of LGB people seeking asylum that were refused speaks for itself. Aderonke Apata watched Prime Minister, Theresa May, pledge the UK's commitment to support global LGBT rights in her speech earlier this year. Now is when those words must be put into action to save lives.
"LGBT people seeking asylum shouldn't be deported to death, just as Aderonke Apata was terrified that she could be deported back to death in Nigeria during her horrendous ordeal. Her claim was rejected several times and she was even accused of lying about being a lesbian. She was eventually granted refugee status in August this year - after 13 years."
DIVA attempted to contact the UK Home Office to request a breakdown of statistics to show the number of LBT women seeking asylum, however the statistics published are not disaggregated.
The statistics, which are "experimental and should be interpreted with caution", can be found here
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