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UK asylum translators are so anti-LGBT+ that even Home Office staff are worried

UK asylum translators are so anti-LGBT+ that even Home Office staff are worried

  • Official report reveals that interpreters let their anti-LGBT+ views affect their work, harming asylum fairness.
UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group at Pride 2019.

UK Home Office interpreters use derogatory slang and judge asylum seekers’ sexual orientation and gender identity.

And the problem is so bad that even Home Office workers are concerned.

The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) raised the concerns in 2019. Now the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has confirmed the problems exist.

The Home Office has developed a reputation for being anti-immigrant and even racist in recent years.

It deliberately developed a cruel ‘hostile environment’ to immigrants, leading to a string of injustices.

Meanwhile LGBT+ campaigners have long highlighted unfairness towards people seeking asylum because they have faced persecution for their sexuality or gender identity.

In the new report, decision makers in the Home Office admit that with some LGBT+ asylum claims they could ‘feel the tension’ between the applicant and the official interpreter.

They say the translators are often ‘fairly old guys who have their views’. Despite this, some Home Office staff said they would ‘try and ignore it’, not wanting to ‘cause trouble’.

A statement from UKLGIG said:

‘We’ve seen interpreters using derogatory slang and making judgements about applicants’ sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as mistranslating and being dismissive of their fears such as the death penalty.

‘We raised concerns that LGBTQI+ people can feel inhibited to talk about their claims in front of an interpreter from the same country of origin for fear of prejudice and being outed to others from the same community, with potential negative consequences for their claim.’

Summarizing, rather than translating word-for-word

The report confirms that applicants are uncomfortable coming out as LGBT+ to interpreters from the same culture.

Moreover, Home Office decision-makers saw applicants were uncomfortable with interpreters. And they simply summarized the asylum seekers’ words, rather than translating them verbatim.

As a result, the Independent Chief Inspector concludes that the Home Office should change its policy.

It says it should give ‘more stringent warnings’ to interpreters ‘about not allowing personal or religious beliefs, for example about homosexuality, to affect the interview’.

UKLGIG executive director Leila Zadeh said:

‘We welcome the Independent Chief Inspector’s conclusion that Home Office interpreters must set aside their personal beliefs when conducting LGBTQI+ asylum interviews.

‘Interviews are stressful enough without the added pressure of being judged by someone who should be there to help you tell your story.

‘Interpreters must also receive adequate training on LGBTQI+ awareness so that they are familiar with the terms and issues people normally face.’