Sadly, this doesn’t come as a surprise, but data obtained by the Liberal Democrats demonstrates that the Home Office is not walking the walk as an LGBTQ ally.
The figures relate to the period 2016-2018, and they show that the Home Office has refused asylum claims from 3,100 LGBTQ people whose country of origin criminalises homosexuality.
This is a government department that proudly waves the rainbow flag during Pride Month, changes their Twitter photo to demonstrate their commitment to the LGBTQ community, and who regularly scores highly in the Stonewall Workplace Index as a great place for LGBTQ people to work.
There’s been plenty of reporting previously of individual cases where the decisions of the Home Office appear to be at odds with the concept of being an LGBTQ ally, but the date now available makes it clear that it’s not just isolated instances – this is a systemic failure.
The release of the data has been reported by The Guardian. The data has been collated by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – ILGA – and, the Liberal Democrats have separated out countries where same-sex acts were criminalised.
Within the 3,100 asylum claims by LGBTQ people that have been refused by the Home Office during the period covered by the data, some 1,197 of those were from Pakistan, 640 were from Bangladesh, and 389 were from Nigeria.
In Pakistan and Bangladesh, being gay is punishable by up to life imprisonment. In Nigeria, LGBTQ people could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Asylum claims were also refused for LGBTQ people from Cameroon, Ghana, Iran, Uganda, Iraq, Jamaica, and Malaysia.
Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for Home Affairs, described the Home Office as operating under a “culture of disbelief” when assessing claims for asylum from LGBTQ people.
This culture of disbelief seems to be reinforced by the immigration tribunals overseeing the appeals process. Examples are not uncommon where appeals have been rejected because the tribunal has not accepted that the claimant is LGBTQ. Judges make comment about whether or not a claimant has “a gay demeanour” or “an effeminate way of looking around the room”.
Obviously, assessing and processing large numbers of people claiming asylum and seeking refugee status isn’t an easy job, but it’s clear that something is going wrong at the Home Office. We can’t accept at face-value the claim by the Home Office it is an ally of the LGBTQ community, when the data about its operations and its decision clearly demonstrates that they are not.