SoSoGay – February 18th 2015

The Home Office has published new guidance on the handling of asylum claims from lesbian, gay and bisexual people following a case in which an asylum seeker was subjected to inappropriate and sexually explicit questions by a civil servant.

Following an article published in the Observer newspaper last year, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned the then Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine CBE QPM, to conduct an investigation into the Home Office’s handling of sexual orientation asylum claims. The Chief Inspector’s investigation, which was reported by So So Gay in July 2014, found a fifth of asylum interviews contained stereotyping and a tenth contained inappropriate questions likely to elicit a sexual response

The new Asylum Policy Instruction provides guidance as to ‘how caseworkers should conduct asylum interviews in claims made on the basis of sexual identity.’ The guidance states: ‘Home Office policy is clear – detailed questioning about claimants’ sexual practices must not be asked and there are no circumstances in which it will be appropriate for the interviewer to instigate questions of a sexually explicit nature.’

The guidance also incorporates a major ruling issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2014 which provides guidance on acceptable measures of assessing asylum claims based on a person’s sexual orientation. In a ruling welcomed by UKLGIG, the Court ruled verification methods used by member states must respect the human dignity of asylum seekers.

Responding to the publication of the new Home Office guidance, Paul Dillane, Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), the only national charity dedicated to supporting, and advocating for the rights of, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people seeking asylum in the UK said: ‘This new guidance provides a positive framework in which the asylum claims of lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers can be determined. However, it is only the first step in tackling poor standards of decision-making. Now we need implementation: civil servants correctly applying the law and the Home Office’s own instructions. The treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers needs to improve and standards of decision-making need to get better in order to ensure people whose lives are at risk because of their sexual identity are granted refugee protection.

Read the article on the SoSoGay site here.