LGBTI asylum seekers and the warrior lawyer who's helping them
Human Rights Lawyer Danielle Cohen's motto is "less formality, more humanity"
When LGBTI asylum seekers wish to claim asylum in the UK, they claim asylum under the Refugee Convention ground of being a member of a "particular social group".
The members of the LGBTI community are persecuted for many reasons, for example, their departure from the majority norm. It seems that society is afraid of social changes, and so the "gay way of life" is perceived to be a threat to home, family and culture.
It's in this area that Danielle Cohen, recently nominated for Human Rights Lawyer Of The Year in the Law Society’s Excellence Awards, works her magic.
Danielle’s firm’s motto, "less formality, more humanity," means that she creates an environment in which personal and private matters can be discussed openly and the evidence to support the claims can be gathered in a confidential and dignified manner.
Danielle is critical of the way the Home Office is processing asylum applications of the LGBTI community because of the recent trend of "sexualisation". This means an over-emphasis by the decision makers on sexual acts, rather than on sexual orientation as an identity.
Applicants are sometimes asked some very personal and private questions, which most people would feel uncomfortable discussing. Some people are also asked for "evidence of being LGBTI" e.g. the way they dress, or the clubs that they go to, or the friends that they keep.
This is unfair because not everyone fits the stereotypes of being LGBTI. As we know, people express their sexuality in their own individual way and that should be celebrated just like heterosexual individuality.
We know from social psychology that stereotypes may or may not accurately reflect reality, and the Home Office should not use stereotypes as shortcuts to make sense of an applicant’s case.
The asylum interview process should not be a lottery, as some asylum interviews are conducted professionally and thoroughly while others are rushed and biased and are resolved by "cut-and-paste" decisions.
The approach the Home Office takes is sometimes contrary to their own policy instructions on sexual orientation, which was published in August 2016.
It acknowledges that some lesbian, gay and bisexual people, may originate from countries in which they are made to feel ashamed, humiliated, and stigmatised, and therefore unable to explain to an unknown civil servant in a stressful environment their full story.
We hope that members of the LGBTI community will be treated fairly and offered the refuge so that they can live the lives they are entitled to.
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