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Individuals who are seeking asylum in the UK to escape persecution over their sexuality are being forced to ‘prove’ that they are LGBT. A report from the Home Affairs Committee (HA) has found that in some case’s individuals are having to show Home Office officials photographs and videos of their sexual activity, as an act of persuasion.
‘The battleground is now firmly centred in “proving” that they are gay,’ the report says. ‘In turn, this has led to claimants going to extreme lengths to try and meet the new demands of credibility assessment in this area, including the submission of photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, presenting officers and the judiciary… The assessment of credibility is an area of weakness within the British asylum system.’
The HA added that this questioning is most likely to negatively impact the most vulnerable applicants – particularly those fleeing from torture.
Keith Vaz, Labour MP added: ‘It is absurd for a judge or a caseworker to have to ask an individual to prove that they are lesbian or gay, to ask them what kind of films they watch, what kind of material they read.’
The HA felt that the quality of decision-making from the UK Border Agency was diminishing. The HA report found that 30% of appeals against decisions in 2012 had been passed. Moreover, there is currently a backlog of over 32,000 asylum cases that should have been resolved five years ago and 63% more cases are waiting beyond the six month initial decision period.
Stonewall described this process as distressing and highlighted the experiences of LGBT people seeking asylum, including rape, torture and death threats. Vada also previously covered the story of Aderonke, a Nigerian LGBT activist who has sought asylum in the UK.
In 2010, the Supreme Court stated that the underlying purpose of the United Nations Refugee convention was to ensure that people could live freely and openly in their home countries. The HA argued that this point invalidated the ‘voluntary discretion’ that the UK Border Agency once emphasised.
The Home Office maintains that it will monitor and maintain standards in relation to asylum seekers.
‘The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it. We are committed to concluding all cases as quickly as possible, but asylum cases are often complex and require full and thorough consideration . . . we have robust mechanisms in place to monitor standards . . . we will continue to monitor performance to ensure that standards are met,’ said a Home Office spokesperson.