asylum process- colonial past

The colonial past that shapes the present asylum process for LGBTQI+ people

Imagine escaping from the place you grew up in, where you have your community, your friends, your life, because you are LGBTQI+ or someone finds out that you are, and suddenly that place is no longer safe for you.

Many LGBTQI+ people across the world find themselves in that situation, and some come to the UK to rebuild their lives in safety here.

Rainbow Migration service user holding a bisexual flag in London Pride 2023

However, the UK asylum system can be very challenging to navigate, particularly for LGBTQI+ people.

LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum are required to “prove” their sexual orientation or gender identity and provide evidence of it, which is a very difficult thing to do.

First of all, when you’re fleeing for your life, the last thing you think about is collecting evidence of your sexual orientation or gender identity – like a letter from an ex.

And then once they’re here, not all LGBTQI+ people want to go to LGBTQI+ clubs, groups, events or be on dating apps, which could provide some sort of evidence; everyone lives their queerness in different ways.

Many people don’t even know that they have the right to claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity when they get here, so wouldn’t think of collecting evidence.

Once they claim asylum, many LGBTQI+ people only have their own account of their sexual orientation or gender identity to provide as evidence. And this account doesn’t always meet the Western-centric expectations of an “emotional journey” or that sexual orientation is a fixed identity. In fact, many LGBTQI+ people have been refused asylum in the UK because of these expectations by the Home Office.

Service users march during Pride London with a sign that reads 'Hallelujah'

Research shows that this expected narrative of self-realisation is particularly difficult to meet for people from different cultural backgrounds. As mentioned in our report Still Falling Short, “Where a person is not imbued in the Western context of self-focus (as opposed to focus on family or communal duty as core founding features of identity), expectations of emotional journeys will often be culturally inappropriate”.

To make things worse, the Nationality and Borders Act passed by this government in 2022 introduced an even higher standard of proof, which means that LGBTQI+ people now have to provide even more evidence to prove their sexual orientation or gender identity. And that means that more LGBTQI+ people could be returned to countries where their lives are at risk.

Some people have argued that the imposition of these narrowly predefined categories and expectations when it comes to people seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity closely resemble those rigid categories imposed during the British colonial era and could therefore be seen as a legacy of colonialism.

In that sense, Alex Powell argues that Western countries like the UK are recreating colonial dynamics or enforcing conformity to “westernised” social scripts, and that “certain pro-LGBT+ policies do not take account of intersectional or culturally specific manifestation of sexual difference”.

During the 1800s, the British empire imposed strict laws that criminalised same-sex relations or declared trans people to be “unnatural” on colonised countries in Africa and Asia, often dismantling decades or centuries of complex local cultural attitudes towards sexuality and gender.

As the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI) report on colonialism and sexual orientation and gender identity states, “The colonising nations established a cultural, political and legal system based on the reproduction-oriented cisheteronormative family, with no room for any gender or sexuality outside of these norms. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia were ideas introduced by missionaries and colonial administrators and later copied by post-colonial leaders. In fact, sexual diversity was – for the first time in these territories – criminalised by the imposition of discriminatory laws during colonial rule. These legislations were maintained once colonial rule ended and many of them persist to date.”

Just recently, Kenyan transgender activist and feminist Arya Jeipea Karijo wrote about those queer pasts that existed in countries where many LGBTQI+ people flee from today. She stressed how “in African pasts what is now known as queer was crucial and in some cases “life saving” for our ancestors”. In present-day Uganda, trans people were referred to as Mudoko Dauku. In Ethiopia, the word wändarwäräd (loosely translated to male female) was a word for acceptance and inclusion. And in Kenya and Tanzania, some women who married other women were known as mokamööna.

Arya Jeipea Karijo, author of 'Queer pasts and global futures'

The experiences of LGBTQI+ people seeking safety in the UK today are a stark reminder of the need for a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to asylum claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is essential to recognise and respect the diverse ways in which individuals live or express their queerness and to ensure that the asylum system does not recreate colonial structures, perpetuate discrimination or put lives at risk.

As we reflect on the historical and current challenges faced by LGBTQI+ people, it is clear that there is an urgent need to create a kinder and more compassionate asylum system. It starts by lowering the standard of proof so that the government is not asking for unreasonably high levels of evidence for something that is already inherently impossible to prove. And it continues by recognising this country’s colonial past and our responsibility to offer safety to those fleeing from the repercussions of our past actions. The disbanding of the Windrush team is a sign that this government is turning a blind eye to the impact of its colonial legacy and refusing to learn lessons.


people waving lgbt flags

Rwanda Bill returning to Parliament

Ahead of the Rwanda Bill returning to Parliament this week, together with JCWI we have produced a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Safety of Rwanda Bill.

We strongly urge the Committee to recommend that MPs reject the safety of Rwanda Bill entirely, as it would put lives at risk and violate the UK’s constitutional, international and human rights law obligations.

Among other issues, we have raised concerns about the safety of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum if they are sent to Rwanda.

Innocent, a gay man from Rwanda who came to the UK 20 years ago, said: “Having experienced the discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people - or those perceived to be sexual minorities in Rwanda - I am shocked that the UK would deport people from our community there.”

Innocent also said: “On 15 November 2023, I was delighted to learn that the UK’s highest court had ruled that Rwanda was not a safe country to which the government could send people seeking asylum to. The LGBTQIA+ community in Rwanda was ecstatic, we were glad that LGBTQIA+ people seeking asylum were not going to be subjected to the suffering that we have endured and that some of us still living in Rwanda continue to endure.

However, our sense of happiness and relief was quickly diminished when we learned that the British government is prepared to do everything in its power to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda.”

What can you do?

Email your MP to call on them to vote against this cruel bill

Read our full submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Safety of Rwanda Bill


queer person showing a 'stop' on their hand

Stop LGBTQI+ people being sent back to India and Georgia

queer person showing a 'stop' on their hand

This week our government is quietly amending legislation so that people from India and Georgia will be unable to have asylum or human rights claims considered in the UK.

Instead, this government will try to immediately return them to those countries without a proper assessment of whether it is safe for them. But these countries are not safe for LGBTQI+ people. Their lives will be at risk if this change is made.

There is evidence of widespread human rights abuses against LGBTQI+ people in both countries. And as recently as last month, Noah, a gay man who fled persecution in Georgia was granted asylum here.

Noah was physically attacked by family members, forced to stay in a hospital for people with mental illnesses, and had an exorcism performed on him at church. His partner was attacked too, but the police in Georgia would not protect them.

You cannot live openly as a gay man in Georgia, or feel protected. If they hear that you are gay, they will kill you.

Noah, gay man from Georgia

Noah was extremely fearful of being returned to Georgia, he said his life would be in danger and he would rather take his own life than go back and face persecution.

Refusing to consider someone’s need for protection because of their nationality is dangerous. Everyone should have the right to seek safety here if they need it, no matter where they come from.

Imagine experiencing violence for being LGBTQI+ in your home country and fleeing to the UK hoping to find safety, only to be told that your country is deemed safe for everyone and you’ll be sent straight back. It’s utterly cruel.

Most of us would welcome LGBTQI+ people who can’t be themselves in other countries and are hoping to rebuild their lives in the UK. They should be welcomed and supported to live safely here, regardless of their country of origin.

If you agree with us, please ask your MP to speak up when this change is debated on 10 January.


A group of people holding flags in a parade.

Highlights from 2023

As we wrap up 2023 and the year of our 30th anniversary, we wanted to share some of the brighter moments from the last 12 months with you:

A group of people holding flags in a parade.

  • Over 40 of our service users from over 18 countries have been granted refugee protection in the UK.
  • Our wellbeing activities have seen our service users take part in cookery classes, visits to the Science Museum and Richmond Park, a picnic and games day, and a dance class. They told us that it was great to have something exciting to look forward to, and to have days out together, where they can just be themselves without having to think about their asylum claims.
  • At least three of our trans service users were relocated to suitable housing in London (e.g. a studio flat for a deaf person; a place with a stairlift for someone who uses a wheelchair), following our support and advocacy.
  • The Women and Equalities Committee called on this government to do much better in its treatment of LGBTQI+ people in the asylum system, including never accommodating them on barges. We provided evidence to the Committee on these points last year.
  • 100% of service users who evaluated our services said that they had a better understanding of the asylum process after receiving our advice.

Download infographic

Video: 2023 in review

A chance to look back at some of the achievements and highlights of our work in 2023!

One of our proudest achievements this year is that over 40 of our service users from more than 18 countries have been granted refugee protection. This has more than doubled since 2022. The people we have supported to secure their futures here include lesbians from Morocco, Iran, India, Nigeria and Uganda, gay men from Ghana and Afghanistan who we supported for over two years and trans people from Saudi Arabia, El Salvador and Pakistan, among many others. This is life-changing for each individual, and we wish them all the best for the future. 


hands on a laptop, someone working in an office setting

We are hiring: Policy and Public Affairs Manager

***THIS RECRUITMENT HAS NOW CLOSED***

 

We are recruiting for a Policy and Public Affairs Manager to join our management team. The Policy and Public Affairs Manager will develop a policy influencing strategy and lead on all areas of policy and public affairs.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Developing a policy influencing strategy and monitoring framework
  • Writing high-quality policy and briefing papers or reports
  • Engaging with civil servants, parliamentarians, ministers and other policy-makers, influencers or allies
  • Working collaboratively with charities and other stakeholders to achieve change
  • Managing occasional research projects

At Rainbow Migration, we don’t just accept difference – we celebrate it, we support it, and we thrive on it. We’re proud to be an equal opportunity employer and we value diversity. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, colour, national origin, gender, gender identity sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability status – simple, we consider all qualified applicants, consistent with any legal requirements.

We welcome applications from candidates with lived experience of going through the UK asylum or immigration system or who have been subject to immigration control, and also people of colour who are currently underrepresented among our staff. We offer a guaranteed interview scheme for anyone considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they meet the necessary criteria in the person specification.

Owing to the nature of the work, the successful applicant will be required at the point of conditional job offer to disclose all spent and unspent criminal records and subsequently to undergo a basic DBS check.

Contract type: Permanent

Hours: Full-time (35 hours per week). Working part-time or job-sharing will be considered. Occasional work in the evenings and at weekends may be required but with plenty of notice. Rainbow Migration encourages staff to maintain a good work life balance and has a TOIL system in place.

Salary: Starting at £39,588 with potential annual step increases up to £44,138 (pro rata if working part time), plus statutory employer’s pension contribution. In addition to an annual step increase, the trustees consider giving a separate inflationary increase every April.

Location: Remote or from Rainbow Migration’s offices in central London. Hybrid working will also be considered. The successful candidate could work from anywhere in the UK but would be expected to occasionally travel to London and other parts of the country for meetings and events. At the time of posting this advert, none of our staff are going into the office every day. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Annual leave: 25 days per year rising after 24 months by one day after each year of service to maximum of 28 days per year (pro rata if working part-time).

Wellbeing: We offer up to two days of wellbeing leave to be taken at short notice in each calendar year.

 

How to apply

Closing date: 10 am on 23 January 2024

Interview dates: 31 January and 1 February 2024

Please download and read the job description and person specification. If you have any questions about the role or would like to find out more before applying, then you can contact the line manager via recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk.

Please send:

1. Your CV

2. A written statement (max 1,000 words). Instead of a written statement you may submit your statement by video or audio recording (max 8 minutes)

3. Optional: a completed monitoring form to recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk.

In your statement, please:

1. Give examples of how you meet the person specification. In addition to what is on your CV, we want to hear about any relevant skills and experience that demonstrate how you meet the necessary criteria for the role, and if you meet any of the advantageous criteria. Skills and experience could be from training, volunteering, interests or life experience

2. Confirm if you wish to be considered under the guaranteed interview scheme for anyone considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ effect on your ability to do normal daily activities)

3. State how many hours a week you wish to work and if you have a preferred pattern, or if you are applying as part of a job-share

By submitting an application, you:

1. Confirm that you have the right to work in the UK and will produce the necessary documentation if you are offered this post.

2. Declare that to the best of your knowledge and belief, the information provided with your application is true and correct and that you understand that any false information or statement given will justify the dismissal from Rainbow Migration if appointed.

3. Accept that, if successful, you will be required to disclose all unspent criminal records at the point of conditional job and subsequently to undergo a basic DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

We are proud to be a member of the Experts by Experience Employment Network, which aims to create a charitable sector that is led by people with lived experience of the asylum and immigration system. As part of this network, we challenge the one-size-fits-all approach in our employment practices, and respect personal circumstances and needs of people with lived experience. Please feel free to use information and resources which may help in preparing your job application.

Privacy notice

If you apply for this role, the information you provide will be processed according to our privacy policy. Rainbow Migration will not share your information with any third parties unless part of the recruitment process or are legally required to do so. By applying, you are permitting Rainbow Migration to access and use the information for recruitment purposes. Rainbow Migration will store your data for 12 months after the conclusion of the recruitment campaign. Monitoring information is kept separately and is pseudonymised to avoid identification of applicants. It is amalgamated for statistical purposes and the original data is then deleted after six months.


three women working in an office

We are hiring: Legal Service Manager

***THIS RECRUITMENT HAS NOW CLOSED***

We are recruiting for a Legal Service Manager to join our management team. The Legal Service Manager will lead and develop our unique immigration advice service and work closely with colleagues to provide legal analysis and ensure we use evidence from our services to influence positive change in the asylum and immigration system.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Management of Rainbow Migration’s legal advice service
  • Building and managing partnerships with legal aid and pro bono law firms
  • Identifying opportunities for strategic litigation
  • Design and delivery of training and resources to improve services from others
  • Working with the Policy and Public Affairs and Campaigns Managers on briefings and evidence for Rainbow Migration’s influencing work

At Rainbow Migration, we don’t just accept difference – we celebrate it, we support it, and we thrive on it. We’re proud to be an equal opportunity employer and we value diversity. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, colour, national origin, gender, gender identity sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability status – simple, we consider all qualified applicants, consistent with any legal requirements.

We welcome applications from candidates with lived experience of going through the UK asylum or immigration system or who have been subject to immigration control, and also people of colour who are currently underrepresented among our staff. We offer a guaranteed interview scheme for anyone considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they meet the necessary criteria in the person specification.

Owing to the nature of the work, the successful applicant will be required at the point of conditional job offer to disclose all spent and unspent criminal records and subsequently to undergo an enhanced DBS check.

Contract type: Permanent

Hours: Full-time (35 hours per week). Working part-time or job-sharing will be considered. Occasional work in the evenings and at weekends may be required but with plenty of notice. Rainbow Migration encourages staff to maintain a good work life balance and has a TOIL system in place.

Salary: Starting at £44,000 with potential annual step increases up to £48,758 (pro rata if working part time), plus statutory employer’s pension contribution. In addition to an annual step increase, the trustees consider giving a separate inflationary increase every April.

Location: Remote or from Rainbow Migration’s offices in central London. Hybrid working will also be considered. The successful candidate could work from anywhere in the UK but would be expected to occasionally travel to London and other parts of the country for meetings and events. At the time of posting this advert, none of our staff are going into the office every day. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Annual leave: 25 days per year rising after 24 months by one day after each year of service to maximum of 28 days per year (pro rata if working part-time).

Wellbeing: We offer up to 2 days of wellbeing leave to be taken at short notice in each calendar year. One-to-one clinical supervision is also available for this role.

 

How to apply

Closing date: 10 am on Thursday 18 January 2024

Interview dates: Monday 29 January 2024

Please download and read the job description and person specification. If you have any questions about the role or would like to find out more before applying, then you can contact the line manager via recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk.

Please send:

1. Your CV

2. A written statement (max 1,000 words). Instead of a written statement you may submit your statement by video or audio recording (max 8 minutes)

3. Optional: a completed monitoring form to recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk.

In your statement, please:

1. Give examples of how you meet the person specification. In addition to what is on your CV, we want to hear about any relevant skills and experience that demonstrate how you meet the necessary criteria for the role, and if you meet any of the advantageous criteria. Skills and experience could be from training, volunteering, interests or life experience

2. Confirm if you wish to be considered under the guaranteed interview scheme for anyone considered as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ effect on your ability to do normal daily activities)

3. State how many hours a week you wish to work and if you have a preferred pattern, or if you are applying as part of a job-share

By submitting an application, you:

1. Confirm that you have the right to work in the UK and will produce the necessary documentation if you are offered this post.

2. Declare that to the best of your knowledge and belief, the information provided with your application is true and correct and that you understand that any false information or statement given will justify the dismissal from Rainbow Migration if appointed.

3. Accept that, if successful, you will be required to disclose all spent and unspent criminal records at the point of conditional job and subsequently to undergo an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

We are proud to be a member of the Experts by Experience Employment Network, which aims to create a charitable sector that is led by people with lived experience of the asylum and immigration system. As part of this network, we challenge the one-size-fits-all approach in our employment practices, and respect personal circumstances and needs of people with lived experience. Please feel free to use information and resources which may help in preparing your job application.

Privacy notice

If you apply for this role, the information you provide will be processed according to our privacy policy. Rainbow Migration will not share your information with any third parties unless part of the recruitment process or are legally required to do so. By applying, you are permitting Rainbow Migration to access and use the information for recruitment purposes. Rainbow Migration will store your data for 12 months after the conclusion of the recruitment campaign. Monitoring information is kept separately and is pseudonymised to avoid identification of applicants. It is amalgamated for statistical purposes and the original data is then deleted after six months.


A group of people waving a rainbow flag in a city.

Stop the Rwanda Bill!

Despite being found unlawful by the Supreme Court, this government still wants to go ahead with its plan to send people seeking safety here more than 4,000 miles away. The new Rwanda Bill is dangerous and disgraceful and cannot be passed by Parliament. Email your MP to call on them to vote against this cruel Bill.

We all want to live in a society where everyone is treated with care and respect. But this government is trying to divide us in an attempt to weaken our rights and freedoms and prevent us from holding them accountable for their actions.

Its Rwanda Bill will strip human rights away from people who come to the UK in the hope of safety for them and their loved ones.

A group of people waving a rainbow flag in a city.
Email your MP

If this bill goes ahead, LGBTQI+ people who come to the UK seeking protection could also be sent to Rwanda. We have repeatedly warned that Rwanda is a country where LGBTQI+ people are subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse. The UK government’s own website states that LGBT people in Rwanda are abused, including by local authorities. The situation for LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda is so poor that people have sought asylum in the UK based on their sexual orientation.

People who arrive in the UK seeking asylum have fled persecution or conflict, and sending them 4,000 miles away to a place where they have no connections will only cause them further suffering.

As Innocent, a gay man who grew up in Rwanda and experienced first-hand abuse, said: “The UK government should reflect more on its policy, hear out and take into account the public sentiment and what the civil society and other people representing vulnerable groups are saying. Most people seeking protection are fleeing for their lives and they need help, not punishment. I do hope that LGBTQIA+ people seeking safety will not be sent to Rwanda to face discrimination.”

We will not be divided. Email your MP today to stop the Rwanda Bill.

Email your MP

The guardian article about lgbt rights.

“I will have to hide my identity in my own room”

LGBTQI+ people come to the UK fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries and hoping to rebuild their lives in safety here.

However, this government continues to place them in inappropriate and unsafe shared asylum accommodation while they wait for months or even years for an asylum decision.

In shared accommodation, LGBTQI+ people are often subject to abuse and mistreatment, which can further traumatise people who are seeking safety and protection.

We have documented many concerns about room-sharing for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum. In our experience, sharing a bedroom can be particularly dangerous for LGBTQI+ people. We have sadly received distressed calls from our service users, reporting incidents of abuse and harassment in shared rooms.

A trans man who had been attacked back home, was placed in shared accommodation where he woke up to find some of the men he was sharing the space with were stripping off his clothes. As reported in The Guardian, he said: “The hotel staff blocked my room card [because I refused to stay in the room, but] they said I had to share. I could not do it. I slept outside the room on the stairs and cried all night. It was the worst night of my life since I arrived in the UK.” Eventually he was put on a single room.

Another lesbian that we support, told the Guardian she had been forced to sign a document agreeing to room share and was terrified of what might happen to her. She said: “I will have to hide my identity in my own room. So many of us are dealing with mental health issues and trying to overcome trauma but the letter I signed said I do not have the right to object to room sharing.”

This government should ensure LGBTQI+ people are accommodated suitably and safeguarded from harm while they seek to rebuild their lives in safety here.

You can read our full briefing on the risks to LGBTQI+ people in initial and contingency accommodation here.


Two women talking at a table in an office.

Apply for a trainee solicitor position at Wilson's

***THIS RECRUITMENT HAS NOW CLOSED***

 

Wilson's is one of the UK's leading legal aid firms and provides invaluable free legal advice to LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in the UK. They are now recruiting a trainee solicitor to join their vibrant and exciting team, a position funded by the Justice First Fellowship.

After 6 months, the postholder will spend one day a week on placement with us at Rainbow Migration, supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system. If you're interested, you can learn more about the job description and person specification and apply now.

Closing date: 8 December 2023

For further information, visit Wilson's website. Any questions regarding this role please reach out to m.davies@wilsonllp.co.uk.