Exclusive: ‘culture of disbelief’ excludes at least 3,100 nationals from countries outlawing same-sex acts
By Jamie Grierson
The Guardian (02.09.2019) – https://bit.ly/2jSZx6I – The UK Home Office has refused at least 3,100 asylum claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) nationals from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised.
At least 1,197 LGBT Pakistanis were refused asylum after making a claim for protection on grounds of sexual orientation between 2016 and 2018, according to an analysis by the Liberal Democrats of figures published by the Home Office. A further 640 LGBT Bangladeshis and 389 Nigerians had their claims on the same grounds refused during the period.
In Pakistan, “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is punishable with life in prison, while Amnesty reports that “transgender people continued to suffer harassment and violent attacks” there. In Bangladesh, Amnesty reports that “LGBTI activists continued to be routinely harassed and subject to arbitrary detention by state and non-state actors”.
In Nigeria, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison and displays of same-sex affection are also outlawed. After Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nigeria produces the largest number of asylum claims based on sexual orientation.
Using data from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the Lib Dems separated out countries where same-sex acts were criminalised. Applications for asylum on grounds of sexual orientation were also refused for nationals of Cameroon (136), Ghana (144), Iran (124) and Uganda (145) as well as Iraq, Jamaica and Malaysia.
Christine Jardine, the Lib Dems’ spokesperson for home affairs, said: “This Conservative government is letting down every LGBT+ person and every individual in this country who cares about human rights. We should be leading the campaign across the world against homophobia and transphobia. Instead we have a government that is turning its back and looking the other way.
“These figures are a disturbing reminder that this Conservative government is failing to stand up for LGBT+ rights by refusing asylum to more than 1,000 people a year who face prosecution at home simply for who they are. The Liberal Democrats demand better for LGBT+ people wherever they live. We will establish a new, dedicated unit to handle asylum claims, free of political interference and without the Home Office’s culture of disbelief.”
In 2018, the Home Office refused 970 LGBT claims from nationals of countries where same-sex acts were criminalised, down from 1,096 in 2017 and 1,043 in 2016.
Last year, LGBT asylum was brought into focus by the case of a Nigerian man who fled to Britain to avoid prosecution for being gay.
Adeniyi Raji, who was sacked for his sexuality, received threats on social media in Nigeria, which included comments such as, “I really wish you were killed that very day …”, “You know gay practice is an abomination in our land”, and “You better stop your gay practice, if not you could get yourself killed in this country”.
The Home Office rejected his claim, which was upheld by the first-tier immigration tribunal. He is appealing against the decision but faces deportation.
The challenges faced by LGBT asylum seekers were further highlighted by a case in which a first-tier immigration tribunal judge rejected the claim of a man because he did not have a gay “demeanour”.
The judge said he did not accept the man applying to stay in the UK was gay and contrasted his appearance with that of a witness who “wore lipstick” and had an “effeminate” manner, who the judge accepted was gay.
In July, the high court ordered the Home Office to help a woman eturn to Britain after she was refused asylum on grounds of sexuality and deported to Uganda. The judge on the case said it was “procedurally unfair”.
If the judgment stands, the woman would be the first deportee whose case was processed through fast-track rules operational between 2005 and 2015 to return to the UK and appeal against the decision to deport her.
The ruling could encourage similar appeals from thousands of people whose asylum claims were treated under the same system.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Individuals are only returned to their country of origin when the Home Office and courts deem it is safe to do so.
“Each case is considered on its individual merits against relevant case law and published country information, and all decisions on claims based on sexual orientation are reviewed by an experienced caseworker.
“The UK has a proud record of providing protection to those fleeing persecution. Over 12 months, we gave protection to more than 18,500 people, the highest number since 2003.”