Gay asylum seekers in the UK will no longer have to answer questions about their sex lives thanks to new guidance from the Home Office.
Caseworkers have received the new policies on how to deal with claims for asylum by gay, lesbian and bisexual people following the revelation that a man fleeing persecution was ‘interrogated’ and asked ‘shockingly degrading’ questions about his sexual history.
The fresh instructions, published by the Home Office this week, specifically rule out improper probing of sexually explicit information. This is after a report from the Borders and Immigration chief inspector published in October which found a fifth of asylum interviews contained stereotyping and a tenth included ‘inappropriate questions’.
Defending their record, a Home Office spokesperson told Gay Star News: ‘Our guidance and training on handling asylum claims based on sexual orientation was praised as clear and concise last year by the Borders and Immigration chief inspector.’
But Sir John Vine, who conducted the investigation into Home Office practices, said in his findings he had discovered that while existing guidance on asylum cases based on sexual orientation was indeed unambiguous and comprehensive, there were failures in it being applied consistently.
Previously a senior police constable in Scotland, he was tasked with conducting enquiries by Home Secretary Theresa May in March last year: A leaked report published in The Observer claimed one bisexual man was subjected to five hours of personal questioning without a lawyer present.
Questions alleged to have been asked included: ‘Did you put your penis into x’s backside?’ and ‘When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection? Did x ejaculate inside you? Why did you use a condom?’
The subsequent report, in which Sir John criticised the Home Office for not having eradicated inappropriate lines of questioning, has been used to create the new guidance.
The latest policy document also incorporates a major ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2014, which gives instruction on the acceptable evidence and methods of assessment used to rule on an LGB asylum claim.
Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), welcomed the latest guidance from officials but added it was only the first step in tackling the ‘poor standards of decision making’.
‘Now we need implementation: civil servants correctly applying the law and the Home Office’s own instructions,’ he said.