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We will stand by LGBTI asylum seekers and fight for their rights

We will stand by LGBTI asylum seekers and continue to fight with them for their rights. In these worrying times, that promise and commitment is needed now more than ever.

One of the most distressing human rights concerns of our time is the global refugee crisis, the biggest since the Second World War. The response from many of the world’s wealthiest countries has been woefully inadequate. Governments have shirked away from their responsibilities to provide safety and security to people escaping war, conflict and poverty. They are entitled to our protection under international law. So too are LGBTI people fleeing persecution in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In over 70 countries around the world, same-sex consensual acts between adults are illegal and the rights of trans people practically non-existent.

There’s been, quite rightly, outrage at the UK government’s pledge to only take 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020. This dismal commitment shows the lack of seriousness with which our top politicians are treating the needs of people in desperate need. This also applies to the government’s approach in dealing with LGBTI asylum seekers.

In 2014, Theresa May (then Home Secretary) commissioned an investigation into the Home Office’s treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers. This was after a report obtained by The Observer revealed that some faced abusive and degrading interrogation about their sex lives as part of attempts to ‘prove’ their sexuality. Even though the outcome of the investigation led to a series of recommendations for the Home Office to help improve its treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers, and despite the fact that some improvements have been made as a result, there are serious problems in our asylum system that still need to be addressed.

Take, for example, the UK’s detention centres. A recent report published by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) and Stonewall found that LGBTI detainees were harassed and physically attacked by other detainees, with staff lacking the necessary training to protect them or to meet their needs. The report also says that many are often denied access to HIV drugs and anti-depressants.

Furthermore, the injustices faced by trans asylum seekers are hard to stomach. Not only do they face bullying, harassment and violence in detention centres, they are also at risk of discrimination at the hands of Home Office officials dealing with their asylum claims. Adam, a trans asylum seeker, told an inquiry by the Women and Equality select committee back in early 2016 that officials refused to treat him as trans and continuously referred to him as a woman. This is horrific. 

So is the fact that LGBTI asylum seekers are still being unfairly quizzed on LGBTI terminology during interviews, despite the fact that such terminology may be unknown to them and not used in their language. This was the case with a bisexual asylum seeker from Pakistan, who wasn’t able to tell officials what the ‘T’ in LGBTI meant ‘Trans’. He’s been refused asylum.

These examples show us that the injustices faced by LGBTI asylum seekers are real and cannot be ignored. This is why the LGBTI network is calling on you to send letters and cards of solidarity to LGBTI asylum seekers as part of Amnesty’s ‘I Welcome’ campaign, this year’s theme for Write for Rights.

The letters and cards will be distributed by our friends at the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group to give hope and the promise of a better tomorrow to LGBTI asylum seekers. We will stand by them and continue to fight with them for their rights. In these worrying times, that promise and commitment is needed now more than ever.

Suggested message: You could send a postcard, drawing or photo of somewhere you love in the UK, with a message about why it is a special place and why you welcome refugees. Please do not include your full name or address, and please do not use religious cards or messages.

All cards from the LGBTI network should be sent to: Michael Quinn, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA.

On Sunday 18th December, the LGBTI Network invites you to join us for a Write for Rights evening, where we will have a few drinks, a bite to eat and write messages of solidarity to LGBTI asylum seekers. For info, please see our Facebook event.

Why not organise your own Write for Rights event like this for your friends, family, colleagues or local community? It's easy and we're here to support you. For advice, contact us at  

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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