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Asylum research uncovers damning Home Office failures

‘Institutional homophobia’ in asylum system means almost all legitimate gay asylum-seekers refused sanctuary

Groundbreaking new research suggests that asylum-seekers who have been raped, tortured and threatened with death because of their sexual orientation in their home country are being routinely deported because of systemic discrimination in the asylum system.

No Going Back, published today by Stonewall, features for the first time detailed evidence not just from lesbian and gay asylum-seekers but from staff at the UK Border Agency. They acknowledge that they receive no guidance on interviewing gay applicants from countries such as Uganda, Jamaica and Malawi and that determinations are often made on the basis of out of date or inadequate information about an asylum-seeker’s country of origin.

The report, supported by Herbert Smith, details deeply shocking abuse and persecution that lesbian, gay and bisexual people face in many countries, and exposes specific disadvantages to their cases faced as a direct consequence of their sexual orientation.

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: ‘This report provides both shocking and clear evidence of institutional homophobia in Britain’s asylum system. Legitimate asylum-seekers are frequently being deported. We’ll now be pressing the UK Border Agency and the Home Office urgently to implement the manifesto promises made by both partners in the new government to end this profound injustice.’

The report reveals that UKBA don’t know how to question lesbian and gay people about their experiences and often assume that they’re either lying or will be able to avoid detection if they’re returned to their home country. Stonewall has developed a series of recommendations to ensure that fundamental errors of judgement made by UKBA staff are urgently rectified. These include robust policy, guidance and training of all UKBA decision-makers to ensure legitimate LGB asylum-seekers are questioned effectively and given fairer case hearings. Home Office Country of Origin services should be improved to reflect up-to-date, accurate information on the scale and nature of anti-gay persecution in countries where it’s currently happening – including the 80 member states of the United Nations where consensual acts between same-sex adults are criminalised.


Observations from those interviewed include:

‘We’re beaten every day, chopped up, mugged, persecuted, abused. As long as you’re recognised, you’re victimised. Every day in fear. Tomorrow you might die.’ Harrison, Jamaican asylum-seeker

‘Someone from Jamaica claiming they’re gay will just automatically be disbelieved.’ Indira, UKBA case owner

‘They took me for spiritual cleansing, where people held me and pushed raw ground pepper into my vagina. If you’re unfortunate like me you get raped as well. But when men force themselves on you, you can’t tell anyone because you’ll bring more shame to the family.’
 Femi, Nigerian asylum-seeker

‘Gay people get beaten, stabbed and killed – a lot. They light them on fire and throw them in the river. Nobody’s going to do anything about it. I can’t go to the police. The police will arrest me because it’s illegal to be gay.’ Adebayo, Nigerian asylum-seeker

‘I would look at how they’ve explored their sexuality in a cultural context – reading Oscar Wilde perhaps, films and music.’ Nicholas, UKBA senior caseworker

‘My mother said I wish you die of AIDS. Homosexuals die of AIDS. It was a mistake I had you as a child.’ Johnson, Ugandan asylum-seeker

 ‘Discretion is a silver bullet that the hostile decision-maker has developed particularly for gays.’ Edwin, Solicitor 

‘Colleagues have said they don’t know what questions to ask; we feel rude prying and embarrassed about asking these questions.’ Sarah, UKBA case worker


Full report at: 


  • Between 2005 – 2009, 98 per cent of cases involving people claiming asylum in the UK on the basis of their sexual orientation were refused by the Home Office. (UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, 2010). Between 2005 - 2008, 76.5 per cent of all asylum applicants were refused by the Home Office. (Information Centre About Asylum and Refugees, 2009).
  • Last Thursday (20 May) two gay men in Malawi were sentenced to 14 years hard labour for ‘gross indecency’ in spite of claims that they had had no sexual contact. Malawi is one of the countries to which UKBA has returned gay asylum-seekers.
  • ‘We would change the rules so that gay people fleeing persecution were granted asylum. At the moment gay asylum seekers are often returned to countries with homophobic regimes and told to keep their sexuality a secret.’ Conservative Party, A Contract for Equalities, April 2010.
  • ‘Liberal Democrats will not deport any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because sexual orientation or gender identification may mean that they are at risk of imprisonment, torture or even execution.’ Liberal Democrats, Policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, April 2010. 
  •  Samira Ahmed and Channel 4 News won a 2009 Stonewall Award for her report on the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians in South Africa. The judges singled out the report as a ‘shocking piece of television, which cast a light on discrimination suffered by lesbians, all too often overlooked in the media.’

See also Channel 4's 'Dispatches - Africa's last taboo', a documentary investigating what it is like to be a gay person in Africa. (Stonewall is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

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