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The UK is Interrogating Gay Asylum Seekers and it Has to Stop

The UK is Interrogating Gay Asylum Seekers and it Has to Stop

The British Home Office is facing intense scrutiny after leaked documents revealed that it has subjected gay asylum seekers to “degrading” interrogations about their sex lives.

The report, dated from October 2013 and obtained by the Observer, reveals that Home Office officials questioned one bisexual man for five hours without a lawyer present, and asked him a series of questions that by most any standard would be classed as prurient.

For instance, the man is said to have been asked the following:

“Did you put your penis into x’s backside?”

“When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection?”

“Did x ejaculate inside you?”

“Why did you use a condom?”

“What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?”

“What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?”

On Saturday the Home Office admitted that staff were “not permitted to ask inappropriate or intrusive question” but maintained that questions relating to sexual orientation were asked “as sensitively as possible.”

However, concerned legal experts have said that these kinds of questions clearly fall outside of sensitivity but this isn’t in fact all that surprising given evidence of the British Home Office’s hostility toward all asylum seekers.

Pink News quotes immigration barrister Colin Yeo as saying:

This is the worst I have seen, but these sorts of intrusive, abusive questions are features of Home Office interview practice, particularly in cases involving sexuality. The underlying problem is that officials believe everyone is a liar. It leads to a fundamental lack of respect for the people they are dealing with.

This comes after revelations last year that gay asylum seekers were facing such a high threshold to prove their sexuality that several claimants had resorted to filming themselves having sex in order to support their claim. They also reported being asked what kinds of clubs they go to and what music they listen to, and being judged whether they are “gay enough” on that basis without proper weight to the fact that cultural norms differ and that persecuted minorities from other countries will be forced to express their sexuality differently.

At the time those allegations were made, the Home Office had pledged to review its treatment of gay asylum applications but had said that the UK takes the proud stance of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. While that may be true, subjecting gay asylum seekers to such deeply personal questions is clearly degrading and overtly hostile. What’s more, there’s evidence that these questions may mask homophobia.

The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) reported in 201o that as many as 98-99% of LGBT asylum applications were rejected, compared to 73% of general asylum claims. Around 30% of gay asylum cases were later approved on appeal. Since then, how the UK handles asylum seekers has changed, partly due to a Supreme Court review and partly because of government reform.

Nevertheless, in its most recent report, the UKLGIG found that the UK immigration system is still having major problems with how it decides what should form credible LGBT asylum claims, and in some cases is using small discrepancies in applications in order to refuse those applications, despite the claim’s wider details appearing legitimate.

Critics say that until the UK government can rid itself of its wider hostility to asylum seekers, minority groups like LGBTIs in particular will continue to suffer due to their difficulty proving persecution related to their personal identity. For asylum seekers from countries like Nigeria, which recently increased its persecution of LGBT citizens, this kind of treatment is therefore incredibly concerning and may leave them feeling without options when hoping to escape discrimination and potential violence.

 

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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45 comments

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7:39AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Treatment of asylum seekers in the UK is uniformly awful. The detention camps are an appalling afford to human decency and make me thoroughly ashamed to be British.

2:19AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Wow, sounds like they are fishing for clues..

8:10PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Wow,, I think these interrogators are ' getting off ' asking people these questions...

Nasty piece of work,, they are....

6:11PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

For me it isn't a matter if they are appropriate or not. I would just like to know what they think those type questions will tell them. Maybe they need to hire gay men to do the interrogating so it is some one that understands what being gay or bi really is. I think that straight guys are more likely to answer these questions the way these people expect them to be answered, because they sound as if they are based on stereotypes based on things straight people tend to relate to gay people.

5:58PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

I am gay and I wouldn't know how to answer some of those questions.

“What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?”

“What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?”

Neither of these two would I be able to answer. I would have to just shake my head and say I just do. Do straight people always know how to explain what it is about someone that gets them going.

“Why did you use a condom?”
Is that not a rather unintelligent question in the days.

Don't get me started on the whole did you have an erection while x was penetrating you. Got news for people. Not all gay men even do anal, and if they do, the person on the receiving end does not necessarily get erect. What are these questions supposed to prove.

If questioning a couple when they are trying to gain access for one of them based on marriage, do they ask the female, when he penetrates you do you scream in orgasm, or when you are inside her do you ejaculate inside her or spray her tummy.

4:18PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

How are govt officals to determine that an asylum seeker is gay? If you are seeking asylum based on sexual orientation you need to convince the asylum provider that you are in fact gay. If the criteria for any asylum seeker was just "because I say it's true" then anyone seeking a way into another country can just say "I'm gay let me in."" Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent asylum seekers ( for ALL reasons) and the govt need to sort out who is lying and who is telling the truth. I don't know that these questions are particularly appropriate and maybe the govts need to look at that but they need to base their decisions on something. Political asylum seekers have to prove persecution to receive asylum.

3:02PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

wow..:/

2:37PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Unfortunately in the UK people seeking asylum, benefits, or any kind of assistance or help and aren't affluent are treated as liars/scroungers unless proved otherwise.. even when proved otherwise negative propaganda prevails.
The treatment of many people in the UK is less than humane, it needs to change from the highest level.

2:25PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

Sounds like these inquisitors have a prurient interest in asking such questions. There's absolutely no way that any such questions are relevant to a person seeking asylum -- even if the reason that person is seeking asylum based on discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

1:07PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

These questions are likely asked out of sheer malice with the intend to degrade asylum-seekers, just because they are that: asylum-seekers. And them being gay only adds to the fun.
None of these question seem to stem from protocol, by there very nature it is clear the people who think them up have very little knowledge of homosexuality. These questions stem from bias and bigotry and the Home Office should have a really good look at itself and see what kind of narrow-mindedness and hatefulness they are cultivating within their system.

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