The Network have today written to the new Minister for Immigration, Damien Green, to demand answers on what the Coalition will do on issues of LGBT asylum.
Many people have expressed concern to us that the British Government is becoming complicit in a Genocide that is being perpetrated against gay people throughout the world as asylum officials here just sit on their hands.
Research by Stonewall published last week found that in the last five years, 98% of all asylum applications based on sexual orientation were refused. You can see the full report here. http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/current_releases/3927.asp
Our letter is copied here below. If you wish yo write to the Minister for Immigration yourself, please email the Home Office at firstname.lastname@example.org with Attn: Minister for Immigration. Or you can call them on 020 7035 4848 or even tweet them @ukhomeoffice.
Dear the Minister for Immigration,
I write as director of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) charity, to seek advice on issues relating to refugees and asylum claims.
We receive a daily stream of distraught emails from LGBT people from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, all requesting help from us. Compared to the rest of the world, Britain is one of the most tolerant nations on earth for LGBT people, one of the few safe places where gay men and women can live and work in peace and security. This is a record Britain should be proud of, and that our work only seeks to build on. Because of this, gay people from around the world who are discriminated against and persecuted in their own countries see Britain as a shining light in a dark, dark world.
As someone who has worked with LGBT refugees for a number of years throughout the tenure of the previous Government, I am very much aware that the previous Government routinely ignored the plight of LGBT refugees, sending countless people back to the countries they fled from to face imprisonment, torture, and in many cases death.
The recent case in Malawi, where a gay couple were imprisoned, simply for being gay, and only released after significant international pressure highlights this as an issue that requires action today. In months and years gone by, it was a proposed death sentence for gay people in Uganda, then hangings of gay teenagers in Iran, honour killings of gay people by their families in Turkey, the epidemic of ‘corrective’ rape against lesbians in South Africa and much of the Caribbean, pogroms of gay areas in Jamaica, intimidating violence at Russian pride marches, co-ordinated massacres of gay people in Iraq, and the list goes on and on, back through time to the hundreds of thousands of gay people murdered in Nazi concentration camps.
The previous Government refused to consider any of these factors in the asylum claims of gay people fleeing persecution. I have personally witnessed the Kafkaesque nature of the asylum process. Our organisation worked with one individual who had fled from Syria with a bullet in his arm and torture scars still visible, only to have his passport removed by UK officials and his Home Office interpreter attached to Syrian Intelligence.
Asylum officials were not interested in any such details, and simply suggested that the individual should be more ‘discreet.’ I remind you that sexuality is not simply a sexual preference, but an integral part of an individual’s personality, a part of their soul. One can no more be discrete about sexuality than about ethnicity, political views or deeply held religious convictions, which are all protected under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
I write to ask for advice or clarification on two key points:
1) How should we respond to the painful requests for assistance from gay people writing to us from countries where they are persecuted?
Currently, we have to delete most of these emails as soon as we receive them, as their horrific nature and tales of terror inflicted on their authors are deeply upsetting to our staff, who are unable to provide any useful advice or information on how their asylum claims might fare in Britain. I would therefore like to know if the Home Office and asylum authorities are going to change the way gay peoples asylum claims are processed to seriously and explicitly take into account the dangers they face in their home countries because of their sexuality.
2) What information can we feed back to our members on what the Coalition Government is doing on LGBT asylum and refugees?
Our membership and the ordinary British gay community we come into contact with in our work are becoming increasingly concerned and angry about the lack of any action whatsoever from the British Government in the last decade on this ever more critical issue. Many of our members are seriously concerned that crimes against humanity are being committed against LGBT people in countries where they are persecuted across the world, and that the British Government and decision makers in the asylum services are complicit in these crimes against humanity for their failure to act on the persecution that is taking place. Some are even worried that the British Government is turning a blind eye to what will be come to seen as the gay genocide; that officials and ministers stood idly by whilst acts of genocide are being committed against LGBT people.
Will you as the Minister for Immigration be making policy changes; give public statements on this issue; or at least offer us private assurances that we can pass on to our worried members that this is a priority for the Government?
I hope that you will be taking swift measures to ensure that LGBT people who need to seek refuge in our country are able to do so, because it is time for action, and action now.