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.


Refugees welcome sign in front of big ben in london.

Joint civil society statement on the Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda Plan

We are relieved today that the Supreme Court has made the right decision and declared that Rwanda is not a safe country for this government to send people needing safety. The Rwanda plan was always cruel and immoral. We urge the Government to immediately abandon such plans with Rwanda or with any other country, and instead protect the rights of people who have come to our country in search of sanctuary.

While we welcome the decision today, we remain concerned by this Government’s overall treatment of people who move to this country. We are alarmed by this Government’s continuous efforts to detain and forcibly send people to countries where they may not know anyone, especially if it puts them at risk of harm and human rights violations. We know that as a community we are compassionate and welcoming, and we need immigration policies that are rooted in that same care, compassion, and respect for human rights. We call on everyone to stand up for the rights of people seeking sanctuary, regardless of where they come from or how they travel here.

Signed (as of 10.30 am Wednesday 15 November 2023)

  1. Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
  2. BARAC UK
  3. Kalayaan 
  4. Liberty 
  5. Doctors of the World UK
  6. Welsh Refugee Council
  7. Medical Justice
  8. Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
  9. Rainbow Migration
  10. Bail for Immigration Detainees
  11. Just Fair
  12. René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
  13. After Exploitation
  14. Freedom from Torture
  15. Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS)
  16. North Wales Regional Equality Network
  17. Young Roots
  18. Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)
  19. Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID)
  20. Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK)
  21. Humans for Rights Network
  22. Hibiscus Initiatives
  23. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
  24. Scottish Refugee Council
  25. Helen Bamber Foundation
  26. Asylum Aid
  27. The William Gomes Podcast
  28. Routes Collective
  29. New Citizens' Gateway
  30. CARAS
  31. West London Welcome
  32. Student Action for Refugees (STAR)
  33. Afghan Association Paiwand
  34. RefuAid 
  35. IMIX
  36. Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
  37. Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)
  38. Our Second Home
  39. Samphire
  40. Care4Calais
  41. St Augustine's Centre, Halifax
  42. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
  43. Good Chance Theatre
  44. The Runnymede Trust
  45. Hope at Home
  46. Voices in Exile
  47. Refugee Support Group (Berkshire)
  48. Ice and Fire Theatre
  49. Waging Peace
  50. Reading City of Sanctuary
  51. forRefugees
  52. Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group
  53. Hastings Supports Refugees
  54. Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign
  55. Hastings Community of Sanctuary
  56. Herts for Refugees
  57. City of Sanctuary UK
  58. Bristol Refugee Rights
  59. Da'aro Youth Project
  60. Reunite Families UK
  61. Migrants' Rights Network
  62. Public Law Project
  63. Praxis
  64. Refugee Action
  65. Together with Migrant Children
  66. JRS UK (Jesuit Refugee Service)
  67. Here for Good
  68. Refugee Council
  69. the3million
  70. Open Rights Group
  71. National AIDS Trust
  72. Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG)
  73. Asylum Matters
  74. HIAS+JCORE
  75. People in Motion
  76. Refugee and Migrant Centre (West Midlands)
  77. RAMFEL
  78. Refugee Women Connect
  79. Voices Network 
  80. Micro Rainbow
  81. LGBT Health and Wellbeing (Scotland)
  82. The VOICES Network 
  83. Mermaids
  84. HOPE not hate
  85. African Rainbow Family
  86. Manchester Migrant Solidarity
  87. Safe Passage
  88. Birmingham City of Sanctuary
  89. Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary
  90. Haringey Welcome
  91. House of Rainbow CIC
  92. Asylum Welcome 
  93. Anti-Slavery International
  94. LGBT Foundation
  95. Migrants Organise
  96. Hope and Aid Direct
  97. Inclusive Mosque Initiative 
  98. Alawia SBI
  99. JustRight Scotland
  100. Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
  101. Time To Be Out
  102. TransActual
  103. Durham Visitors Group
  104. Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees & Asylum Seekers
  105. RefYouMe
  106. Reclaim The Sea
  107. Big Leaf Foundation
  108. Freedom United
  109. Muslim Council of Britain
  110. Global Link
  111. Lesbian Asylum Support Sheffield
  112. Asylum Support Appeals Project
  113. Gendered Intelligence
  114. Migrant Voice
  115. Stand For All
  116. Migration Justice Project, Law Centre NI
  117. NACCOM
  118. Refugee Legal Support
  119. South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice
  120. Choose Love 
  121. Refugee and Migrants Forum of Essex and London
  122. Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network
  123. Nottingham Arimathea Trust
  124. Govan Community Project
  125. Simon Community Scotland
  126. Welcome Churches
  127. The Pickwell Foundation
  128. Refugees at Home
  129. Stonewall
  130. Sahir House
  131. Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC)
  132. Room to Heal

 


person smiling with rainbow flag

Joint Statement: LGBTQI+ people seeking safety here will not be sent to Rwanda

Joint statement: Rainbow Migration and Micro Rainbow

We are ecstatic that this government’s cruel plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda has been found unlawful by the Supreme Court. This is a huge victory for kindness and common decency.

“This is a day for national celebration. The judges at the UK’s highest court have stopped this trade in humans and many people in the UK who have fled unimaginable horrors can breathe a sigh of relief”, said Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration.

"Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman's commitment to pushing ahead with the Rwanda plan risked turning the UK into a country famous for its cruel policies and attitudes towards people who need safety. We, and everyone we work with, are very happy that it has finally been found unlawful. Our beneficiaries can take a breath of relief, but they are still not safe.  Now is the time to build a humane and dignified immigration system that we can all be proud of". Sebastian Rocca, Micro Rainbow CEO

For many months since it was first announced back in April 2022, 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.

There is widespread evidence of ill-treatment and abuse faced by LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda - It’s extremely concerning that this government is willing to send LGBTQI+ people who have fled life-threatening situations in their home countries and sought safety and protection in the UK to another country where they would be in danger.

Innocent Uwimana, a gay man who grew up in Rwanda and came to the UK twenty years ago wrote about his struggles back home: “Growing up, I got bullied a lot because I was gay, the bullying spilled over into violence; I was terrified of going to school. When I started secondary school, it was even worse. I was physically abused by other students because they perceived me as gay. Having experienced the discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ people, I am shocked that the UK would deport people from our community there”.

Innocent also talked to LGBTQI+ activists based in Rwanda, who expressed their surprise and disbelief in hearing about the UK government’s plan: “Most LGBTQI+ people want to leave Rwanda. They want to live in a place where they can be free and themselves. So why would the UK government think it is safe to send LGBTQI+ people there?”

LGBTQI+ people could still be sent to other unsafe countries

This decision also means that the government has nowhere to systematically send people seeking asylum to, as this government currently has no other return agreements with other countries.

However, the recently passed Illegal Migration Act lists other countries where people could be sent to have their claims processed. Many of these so-called ‘safe’ countries are dangerous for LGBTQI+ people.

This list includes Ghana as deemed safe for men, but in 2021 nine people from Ghana were granted refugee status in the UK based on their sexual orientation. A year ago, Adams, a bisexual man from Ghana that Rainbow Migration supported was granted asylum. He was violently attacked in the street on several occasions. When he got to the UK, he got the news that his partner had been killed back home.

Last week, this government announced it wanted to add India  to the list of countries deemed safe. However in 2022, thirteen people from India were granted asylum in the UK *based on their sexual orientation. Nisha, a trans woman from India had to escape from India after her parents locked her in the house and forced her to undergo conversion practices.

The Illegal Migration Act also makes it significantly more likely that LGBTQI+ people who come here will be detained, with fewer safeguards and for a minimum of 28 days.

With the announcement of a new Home Secretary, it’s time for a change of direction: We call on this government to get in line with public sentiment, to ditch their heartless asylum policies and to create a more humane and compassionate asylum system so that people can rebuild their lives in safety.

 

 

 

*The experimental statistics show the number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised as a basis, or part of the basis, of the claim


Pride flags waving

LGBTQI+ people shouldn't be moved to a floating prison

As this government starts moving people seeking protection back to a floating prison we say it loud and clear again: Housing people in prison-like conditions is cruel and risks further traumatising people who have had to flee unimaginable dangers and life-threatening situations.  

Some of the LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum that we support have already started receiving letters confirming their move in the coming days, which is extremely concerning.  

We know that LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum are particularly at risk of harm and can face serious issues when forced to live in overcrowded conditions. People will have limited access to support and they will also not be free to move around the port, so conditions on the barge are very similar to being in prison or immigration detention.  

In detention, LGBTQI+ people are likely to experience discrimination and harassment from other people who can hold LGBTQI-phobic views. Trans people can be at even greater risk of abuse.

The people that we work with are worried about being moved to the barge, and are feeling extremely anxious about this possibility and the impact it would have on them. We ask that this government commits to housing LGBTQI+ people in suitable accommodation in the community and safeguarded from harm while they seek to rebuild their lives in safety here. 

  


Enough trans people are people too together always.

Enough: Trans people are people too

We have come together with LGBTQI+ organisations and allies across the country to say enough! Trans people are people too.

Full statement from LGBT Consortium:

We cannot allow our communities, particularly our Trans and Intersex communities, to be attacked in such inhumane and degrading ways as we have seen during the Conservative Party Conference over the last week.

Rather than focusing on pressing issues affecting everyone, such as the cost of living, the climate crisis or getting timely healthcare, senior Government ministers, including the Prime Minister, sought to denigrate Trans and Intersex people, and increase the barriers they already face to accessing essential services and support. We are deeply concerned at the nature and tone of these remarks and policies.

Everyone has a right to live with dignity, free from discrimination and abuse, and to play an integral part in their local communities. That is the principle behind the Equality Act, which up until now has been supported by all parties. Government’s responsibility is to all its citizens and it should be working to proactively tackle life-limiting inequalities so that Trans people are safe to live their lives, respected and valued in society, and supported to thrive in what they do.

However, Trans and Intersex people and communities are being let down by a Government that wants to deny their existence and their safety.

For far too long now, we have seen Trans people and communities used in a culture war, mocked by those who are in positions of power, and inaccurately portrayed as a threat to others. People who support Trans people as friends, colleagues and family members are called ‘bullies’, and those questioning the Government’s new narrative in this area are removed from conversations. Announcements like the exclusion of Trans men and women from single-sex wards are made despite the NHS reporting no evidence of abuse by Trans people, and quite possibly with no consultation with those involved in providing or receiving those services. This suggests to the wider public that it is legitimate and appropriate to undertake harassment of Trans people and communities.

We call upon LGBT+ people, friends, allies, family members, businesses and voluntary sector organisations to stand up and say enough. Enough of erasing and attacking some of the most marginalised people and communities in our society, and putting the health, safety and lives of Trans people at risk. Trans people, and all LGBT+ people, are an asset to our country. Reducing inequalities should be our collective goal. If the Government can target one group of innocent people, and block them from necessary services, then it can do the same to anyone else.


Respect the lives of LGBTQ+ people and women seeking asylum

Letter to the PM: Respect the lives of LGBTQI+ people and women seeking asylum in the UK

Respect the lives of LGBTQ+ people and women seeking asylum

Together with 245 other organisations, we’ve joined Stonewall in a powerful display of solidarity, following comments by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, last week.

The coalition, including organisations such as AmnestyOxfam, End Violence Against Women CoalitionRefugee Council and Women For Refugee Women, has written to UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to protecting LGBTQI+ people and women around the world.

Many of the signatories work daily with LGBTQI+ and women refugees, and ‘bear witness to their scars from being persecuted’.

The letter rejects Suella Braverman’s claim that LGBTQI+ people and women are misusing their identities to make false claims, and speaks of regret that the  Home Secretary’s selective use of stats that ‘have nothing to do with genuine concern or respect for international law, refugees or their protection.’

Read the full letter

Robbie de Santos, Director of External Affairs at Stonewall, said: “We all deserve a government with the compassion and will to protect the most vulnerable in society. Not only is the incumbent UK Government failing LGBTQ+ people domestically, with inaction on rising hate crime, but they are also failing the international community by indicated their disdain for international law – in the process bringing great shame on party and country.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, said: “The Home Secretary’s verbal attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ and women refugees is deplorable. Not only did she once again stir utterly false prejudices against people seeking asylum, she also targeted refugees who often continue to face grave insecurity, hostility and violence – even long after escaping persecution and conflict. Ministers must stop their constant scapegoating and put their energy into repairing the utter wreckage they have made of the asylum system.”

Alphonsine Kabagado, Director, Women For Refugee Women, said: “We strongly condemn Suella Braverman’s speech last week – which was dangerous, inflammatory and racist. Not only did her claims stoke hatred and fear, they were untrue. To be granted asylum in the UK, you must prove a well-founded fear of persecution. Her suggestion that people lie about their identities to make false claims for protection, or that it is possible to be granted asylum based on discrimination alone, is unfounded. We know from our work supporting refugee and asylum-seeking women, including LGBTQ+ women, that many face persecution including torture, gender-based violence, sexual violence, trafficking and rape.

Braverman’s speech was also hypocritical. The Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to tackling violence against women and supporting survivors of such violence, as well as to supporting LGBTQ+ people. Yet when it comes to women or LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the UK, it seems these commitments do not apply. Instead of whipping up hatred, fear, and division against women and LGBTQ+ people seeking safety, the Government should treat them with compassion and kindness. How we treat people is who we are; the Government’s hostility does not represent us.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Turning our backs on LGBTQ+ people and suggesting they are undeserving of a fair hearing in the asylum system is immoral.

Of the small number of people who come to the UK claiming asylum based on their sexual orientation, the majority are recognised as having a well-founded fear of persecution and are given refugee protection. We know from our work how traumatised they often are – what they need is support to restart their lives in safety, rather than hostility and disbelief.

The Refugee Convention’s fundamental purpose is to offer protection to those who need it, based on shared global values of humanity and fairness. Abandoning these values does not reflect who we are as a country.”

Leila Zadeh, CEO, Rainbow Migration, said: “Across the world there are LGBTQI+ people experiencing violence and persecution simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Around 70 countries still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some places the picture is getting worse.

Many LGBTQI+ people that we support every day tell us how they faced life-threatening situations back home. For example, Olu, a lesbian from Nigeria had to run for her life when her husband found out she was a lesbian and nearly killed her, or Adams was violently attacked in the street on several occasions by members of his community in Ghana because he was bisexual.

We all want to live somewhere where we can be safe and live fulfilling lives and most of us welcome people who are fleeing for their lives. We ask that the PM gets in line with public sentiment and commits to the protection of the rights of LGBTQ+ people seeking safety in the UK.”


A silhouette of a person in front of a sunset.

Brook House Inquiry findings: A gay man faced verbal homophobic abuse and was outed by staff in detention

The first public inquiry into immigration detention in the UK, released today, found evidence that a gay man from Morocco had received verbal homophobic abuse from staff while held in immigration detention.

The man told the Inquiry that “he did not feel detention was an environment where it was safe to be open about his sexuality” and that “he believed staff were hostile towards gay people”. The report details an incident where a member of staff at the Brook House immigration removal centre told him that he needed to change his clothes “because [he] looked gay” in front of other people in detention, which effectively outed him and caused him to feel unsafe in detention. The report found that the remark was “probably made with the express intention of humiliating” him, and that the officer was likely to know “that his specific choice of words could have placed [the gay man] at risk of harm”.

“These findings show, once again, how dangerous immigration detention is for LGBTQI+ people”, said Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, and continued “LGBTQI+ people face high levels of harassment, abuse and violence from others who are detained or, as this Inquiry shows, even staff”. On top of that, facing abuse in detention can retraumatise LGBTQI+ people, as many will have fled persecution and are already trying to cope with experiences of trauma from their past.

The case of mistreatment detailed above is one among a total of 19 incidents of mistreatment that were found by the Brook House inquiry in just a five-month period between April and August 2017. The report also catalogued a deeply troubling list of issues at the centre, including a dysfunctional safeguarding system, excessive and inappropriate use of force and the use of racist and abusive language towards people detained.

Under the recently passed Illegal Migration Act, this government plans to increase the use of detention, which will put LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in even more dangerous situations.

Recent UNHCR report findings suggest that supporting people who might otherwise be detained to navigate the asylum and immigration system in the community instead is better for their mental health and wellbeing, costs less than detaining them, and does not affect compliance with Home Office directives.

“This government urgently needs to end the use of immigration detention and instead invest in tried and tested community-based approaches that do not carry the same human cost”, said Leila Zadeh.

Further findings about the report have been reported by The Guardian and The Independent.


Two people holding hands at a pride parade.

More Albanian LGB+ people granted asylum despite country considered ‘safe‘ under new Illegal Migration Act

New statistics show that the number of people from Albania that were recognised[1] as being at risk of persecution due to their sexual orientation in the UK in 2022 more than doubled compared to 2021, it went up from five to thirteen people

Albania is one of the countries deemed ‘safe’ under the recently passed Illegal Migration Act. “By granting asylum to LGB Albanians, this government is acknowledging that Albania is a dangerous country for the community, where they can face life-threatening situations”, said Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, and added, “However, when the Illegal Migration Act fully comes into force, LGBTQI+ people could be sent to Albania or any other of the 56 countries that this government considers safe”.

Hamez, a gay man who fled to the UK from Albania explained last year that: “It was very scary to go back to Albania. My family were pressuring me to get married, and when my parents found out that I was gay, my father chased me out of the house with an axe. I had brought shame on my family, and my father began to be physically abusive. I was hiding in the mountains, trying to find a way to escape my village. It is common for people to get beaten up or killed in my country if someone is found out to be gay.”

The statistics also show that the number of LGB people from Nigeria and Ghana that were granted asylum remained steady, 52 and 9 respectively, two countries that are also considered ‘safe’ (in respect of men) under the Illegal Migration Act.

 

More LGB Ugandans seeking refuge in the UK

According to the statistics, up to 54% of the applications received from Ugandan nationals were LGB applications. Over the last year and a half, we’ve supported more than 20 Ugandan LGBTQI+ people to seek protection here and we are concerned that the discriminatory law that was passed in Uganda a few months ago, under which LGBTQI+ people can face life in prison or even the death penalty, will mean many more will have no choice but to flee Uganda.

The Illegal Migration Act will make it almost impossible for LGBTQI+ Ugandans to find safety in the UK. If they do, they could be detained and later sent to another dangerous country for LGBTQI+ people.

“The inhumane Illegal Migration act should never come into force. Instead, this government should focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness” said Leila Zadeh.

 

[1] The experimental statistics show the number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised as a basis, or part of the basis, of the claim.