A Labour government would welcome asylum seekers fleeing their home country because of persecution on account of their sexuality.
A lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans manifesto launched by the party yesterday promised that Britain under a Labour government would ‘always be a country that provides refuge for those fleeing persecution, whether on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity’. ‘There have been too many cases of discriminatory and offensive treatment of LGBT people claiming asylum, so we will review the procedures to ensure the rules are upheld fairly and humanely,’ it reads.
This pledge was ‘a sign of progress within the Labour Party’, said Paul Dillane, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG). ‘The last Labour administration’s record on the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers was atrocious,’ Dillane said.
‘UKLGIG exposed that 98-99% of lesbian and gay asylum seekers were refused and told to go back to countries like Iran and Uganda and be ‘discreet’. Unknown numbers of people, including our own clients, were forcibly removed from the UK and effectively told to get back in the closet and conceal their sexual or gender identity. As the Supreme Court later ruled, that was entirely unacceptable.’
Labour has promised to ‘review the process and guidelines around applications for asylum on the basis of persecution for sexuality or gender identity’. The manifesto follows Lucy Powell, Labour candidate in Manchester Central, acknowledging that LGBT people across the world faced ‘horrific violence and injustice and we have a moral duty to be a safe haven and to use our international standing to encourage countries to improve LGBT rights’.
‘In many lesbian and gay cases, analysis focuses on whether the asylum seeker could return to the country of origin and hide their sexual identity. Sexual identity is thereby reduced to physical sexual behaviour. Thus, if a lesbian or gay man previously lived a clandestine life in their home country, due to their fear of persecution, then they can be returned to that country and be “discreet” again, supposedly without fear of persecution.’
UKLGIG’s ‘Failing the Grade’ report (here)
The last Labour Government refused to abandon the the above policy was found unlawful by the Supreme Court in July 2010. ‘There have also been cases where the Home Office have said that gay people can return to their home country and “live discreetly” meaning to hide their sexuality. This was completely wrong in my mind and was overruled by a Supreme Court judgement,’ said Powell.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award