A new report has found that the Home Office is using religion, dependency on homophobic friends and family, or not knowing that sexual orientation and gender identity are grounds for claiming asylum against LGBT people seeking refugee protection.
The Home Office is asking LGBT people seeking asylum to explain how they can be Christian. Questions are asked around religious scriptures, and the Home Office is challenging LGBT people on their interpretations of the Bible.
Typical questions include, ‘How can you be lesbian and Christian?’, ‘Isn’t the Bible against being gay?’ and ‘Don’t you think you’re contradicting yourself?’.
The report is based on interviews carried out at the Metropolitan Community Church of North London, with the support of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG).
The report has also found that the government ban on people working if they are seeking asylum, and the restricted financial and housing support available, is forcing LGBT people to stay with homophobic people they know instead. As a result, they hide their sexuality from those around them, which in turn affects their chances of the Home Office believing that they are LGBT. Being forced to hide an important aspect of their lives can also cause LGBT people to experience anxiety and depression that lasts for the entire duration of the asylum process, which can take months or years: they cannot be out to those they see most often, and constantly worry that if their hosts discover that they are applying for asylum because they are LGBT, they might be made homeless.
One person in the report explains how not being able to come out to his family, whom he was living with, meant he was too afraid to apply for asylum in the first place, and then lacked evidence to support his claim:
‘‘In the application process, in my case, everything that I was doing I was doing it in secret, so I got to a point that Home Office is asking me ‘Where’s the proof?’ and it’s very difficult for me to come out with proof, because I’m doing this in a way that my [family members] will not find out who I am…I don’t have the right to work. So if these people kick me out, where am I going? So, that was the reason why it took me a long time for me to come out [as] who I am”.
The report also catalogues the experiences of many LGBT people who waited for a long time before claiming asylum because they did not know refugee protection could be available to them, and who felt that the Home Office held this fact against them.
One LGBT person explains that not knowing sooner that they could apply for asylum ‘came back to bite me’.
The report describes a terrifying experience for LGBT people in their dealings with the Home Office.
Another person is quoted in the report as saying, ‘The Home Office makes me shiver. They make me tremble. Entering that Home Office is like entering the lion’s mouth’.
The Metropolitan Community Church of North London, that commissioned the research, has been providing a faith community to support LGBT people fleeing persecution so they can be themselves.
The findings resonate with those made by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group last year.
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of UKLGIG, said, “The Home Office needs to stop assuming that LGBTQI+ people cannot be religious or that they experience a conflict with their religion. They also need to stop using lack of knowledge of the possibility of claiming asylum as an LGBTQI+ person as a reason for refusing to grant refugee protection”.