Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gay asylum claims not being counted despite pledge, admit ministers

Lack of data means Home Office unclear whether applicants are still being deported to countries where they risk persecution
Damian Green
Immigration minister Damian Green says the number of asylum applications 
based on sexual orientatioin could 'only be obtained through 
examination of individual case records at a disproportionate cost'.

By Karen McVeigh -

Ministers have admitted they are failing to collect data on the number of people who claim or are refused asylum on the basis of their sexuality, despite a government promise not to deport lesbians and gay men at risk of persecution.
The lack of statistics means the government does not know whether gay and lesbian asylum seekers are still being deported to countries where they may face imprisonment, torture or execution. It is also unable to say whether new rules, brought in after a supreme court ruling that marked an end to Britain refusing asylum to gay men and lesbians on the grounds they could hide their sexuality by living discreetly, are being breached.
In that July ruling, welcomed by Theresa May, the home secretary, one judge described how homophobia had "dramatically worsened" in countries such as Uganda, Malawi and Iran, making it necessary to allow those at risk protection in Britain.
The UK Border Agency was told by the Home Office last year that the new rules should be applied "with immediate effect" and that relevant cases should be "flagged and recorded".
But more than six months on, the government still does not know how many cases they are dealing with, let alone whether the ruling is being followed.
Last week, the US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, launched her department's 35th Human Rights report, which cited a Stonewall report drawing attention to "significant disadvantages" experienced by lesbian and gay asylum seekers in Britain. The UK chapter in the US state department report said: "Stonewall claimed that, by 'fast tracking' these more complex cases and denying them quickly, UKBA staff did not give applicants time to talk openly about their sexual orientation."
The campaign group found that, in the period between 2005-2009 almost all gay and lesbian asylum seeker claims were initially refused, compared with a 76% refusal rate among all asylum seekers, and were more likely to be fast tracked, which meant applicants and their lawyers had much less time to prepare an appeal.
Following accusations of "institutional homophobia", the UKBA has taken steps to address criticisms, including training case workers in dealing with such claims. Lesbian and gay asylum support groups said that the lack of centrally held official figures means they are unable to track whether any progress is being made.
Erin Power of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group said: "This makes it impossible to say anything at all about LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] claims because we don't know whether they are granting asylum. An awful lot of work and money has gone into improving the approach to LGBT claims.
"What worries us is people who were refused prior to the supreme court decision. In these cases, we know the countries they are being sent back to are dangerous. If they are picked up as failed asylum seekers, no one is checking whether they were told to be discreet. We've no idea how many people there are."
In what she described as a "worrying" development, following the ruling, it is becoming more difficult for asylum seekers to "prove" to the authorities that they are homosexual.
"It has always been difficult to prove but more frequently now, people are not being believed."
Steve Symonds, the legal officer of Immigration Law Practitioners Association, said: "We are aware of cases where the Home Office and the courts have refused people asylum on the basis which we know now to be wrong.
"The sensible thing to do would be to review cases of removal. When you get to a point where you have to put someone on a plane for removal, you should get their file out and make sure there's nothing of concern. They should check they have not claimed on the grounds of being gay, because they know that there was an important decision in the court which may be relevant."
In at least one immigration case, last month, involving a woman they believed was a lesbian from Uganda, Home Office lawyers argued that there was no persecution of lesbians in there and that she could be safely returned if she lived discreetly. But a judge ruled that living openly as a lesbian would expose her to persecution and granted her leave to remain.
In response to a parliamentary question asking how many lesbian and gay asylum seekers had been granted or refused asylum since July, Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: "The information requested in the questions is not recorded centrally by the UK Border Agency and can only be obtained through examination of individual case records at a disproportionate cost."
A UKBA spokesperson said: "The UK Border Agency does not currently record separate statistics on the grounds on which individuals claim asylum.
"We are, however, reviewing how data on sexual orientation cases can be recorded more effectively and whether any resulting data can be published."

No comments:

Post a Comment