“I am not a prisoner. I am an asylum seeker. I seek asylum. I have never committed a crime in my life.”
In a joint report, LGBT+ charities Stonewall and UKLGIG (UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group) have joined forces to investigate the experiences of those who have been forced to seek asylum due to persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the landmark report, researchers from both charities conducted 22 in-depth interviews with LGBT+ asylum seekers who have been held in UK detention centres. They were asked about their experiences with staff, other detainees, their physical and emotional well-being in detention and access to legal and health services.
Findings show that staff are, to put it mildly, very ill-equipped to meet the needs of LGBT people or to protect them from harassment from fellow detainees. The LGBT+ asylum seekers who were interviewed say they felt forced to hide their identity, for fear of physical abuse. Detainees who were known to be LGBT+ were bullied, harassed or attacked by other detainees, and victims said they did not feel protected by staff at the centres.
Currently 73 United Nations member states criminalise consensual acts between adults of the same sex, and very few countries recognise trans people’s rights. Interviewees who took part in the research have faced severe discrimination and violence in their country of origin, leading them to claim asylum.
Following the report, the charities have released a powerful video containing excerpts from interviews with LGBT+ people who have been through the UK asylum system. The video raises the important question: is this really how we should treat the most vulnerable among us, who in most cases have already endured years of horrific persecution and abuse?
To learn more about Stonewall please visit their website.
To learn more about UKLGIG please visit their website.