The UK is rejecting more gay and bisexual asylum claims than ever before.
New Home Office statistics reveal the grant rate for people claiming asylum on the basis of sexual orientation has fallen from 39% in 2015 to 22% in 2017.
It is harder to claim based on sexual orientation compared to all other asylum claims. The grant rate for LGBT asylum claims is 29%, compared to 36%.
It is also harder to appeal.
The success rate at appeal was lower for LGB-related claims (34%) compared to all claims at (37%).
Leila Zadeh, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, described the decline as ‘extremely worrying’.
‘Our research has shown that the Home Office routinely disbelieves LGBTQI+ asylum claimants and disregard statements from friends, partners and LGBTQI+ organisations testifying to a claimant’s sexual orientation or gender identity,’ she said.
The Home Office is setting the bar too high for LGBTQI+ people.
‘They are not applying the correct legal standard of proof that it is “reasonably likely” that someone will be persecuted.
‘It is imperative that the Home Secretary agrees to an independent public audit into asylum decision-making’.
African Equality Foundation’s Edwin Sesange told Gay Star News he disagreed with the ‘culture of disbelief’.
‘The history of disbelief of LGBTI people in the UK needs to be addressed. It seems it is having some short and long-term effects to those seeking refuge from countries still suffering from British colonial anti-LGBTI laws.
‘It is a bad experience to know the people who you are going to tell your story to will not believe you. The disbelief culture has to change.’
What is the Rainbow Rush scandal?
Gay Star News sent an open letter regarding the Rainbow Rush scandal to the Home Secretary in June.
Data shows the Home Office, in the past two years, have turned away thousands of genuine gay or bi asylum applications.
‘Home Office officials have turned down genuine applicants, advised them to go home and “act discreetly” or even suggested religion can “cure” them,’ we said.
‘We call on the government to enact an immediate moratorium on deporting or detaining any asylum seekers.
‘We demand an independent inquiry into the Rainbow Rush cases and will be happy to provide evidence to that inquiry.
‘And we further ask that HM Government agrees to accept the recommendations of that inquiry and to enact permanent changes to ensure our asylum system is fair to all LGBTI and other asylum seekers in future.
‘This is a once in a generation opportunity for the UK to put an end to historic wrongdoing by immigration officials and ensure we are, in future, ranked as world leaders in our provision of asylum on humanitarian grounds.’
How did the UK respond to the campaign?
‘Our guidance emphasises the realisation of sexual identity rather than sexual practices, and the risk of persecution on that basis. It also prohibits any type of stereotyping or the asking of sexually explicit questions or receipt of sexually explicit evidence,’ Javid said.
The UK will also now provide guidance on not just sexual orientation, but on gender identity including non-binary.
However, the Home Office is refusing to carry out an independent inquiry into these cases or agree to a moratorium on deportation or detention.
Are improvements happening behind closed doors?
Some may see this as the UK government denying its failures. However, it appears small changes are happening behind closed doors.
Anitah Mbaziira, from Uganda, has faced rejection after rejection on her asylum claims.
She’s bisexual. Bisexual claimants often face bigotry from judges and officials.
‘I’m really so relieved and so happy,’ she told GSN. ‘I now have protection. I’m now a free person.’
The entire process, including appealing the rejected claims, took three long years.
‘It was so difficult and very frustrating,’ she said. ‘It’s just not right to treat us like criminals.’