Gay asylum seekers in UK resort to extreme measures to prove sexuality
The Guardian in London
Gay asylum seekers in Britain are increasingly going to extreme lengths to meet immigration officials' demands that they prove their sexual identity or else be returned to countries where they face persecution.
In a lecture to be delivered this week at the Law Society, S. Chelvan, a barrister who specialises in asylum cases and works with the UK Border Agency (UKBA), will detail the extraordinary methods to which individuals are resorting - including filming themselves having sex - to justify requests for refuge.
The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), which supports up to 1,000 applications a year, says altered official guidelines are an improvement but that they result in an excessive focus on the sexuality of individual claimants.
Changes introduced by the UKBA following a supreme court judgment in 2010 have shifted the emphasis of official assessments to establishing whether or not claimants are genuinely lesbian or gay, immigration experts say.
Prior to 2010, those seeking asylum because they were at risk if returned to states where homosexuality is illegal - such as Iran, Uganda or Cameroon - were refused permission mainly on the grounds that they could behave with discretion when returned.
Refusals are now more commonly made on the basis that claimants are not, or cannot prove, that they are gay, lesbian or transsexual, says Chelvan, explaining that the new focus is having bizarre and inhumane consequences.
"I know of at least two cases in the last six weeks where I have had asylum seekers filming themselves to demonstrate they are gay," he said.
A Ugandan lesbian, who was eventually given temporary leave to remain in Britain after spending months in detention awaiting deportation, said copies of a Ugandan newspaper that called for her to be killed should she return to the capital, Kampala, were initially disregarded by a British immigration tribunal.
According to UKLGIG, about 75 per cent of those who claim asylum on the grounds that they are gay and will be at risk if removed from Britain fail in their claims.