Stonewall Immigration Group protesting

Celebrating 30 years together!

This year marks a significant milestone for us as we proudly celebrate three decades of supporting LGBTQI+ people through the immigration and asylum system.

In the 90s, a group of lesbian, gay and bisexual couples, and their lawyers, campaigned to make it possible for the partner of a British citizen in a same sex relationship to remain in the UK. This was how Rainbow Migration was originally formed.

Since then, we’ve continued to campaign for the right of LGBTQI+ people to rebuild their lives free from homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia here in the UK.

Learn more about the origins of Rainbow Migration, have a look through our historic archive and read the stories of those who have been involved with us throughout the years!


A group of women sitting around a table eating a cup of coffee.

Tell your MP about alternatives to detention

We all know that immigration detention is unjust and inhumane. Now the UN Refugee Agency has published evidence showing that a new compassionate approach could be a reality in the UK.

We need MPs to see this report.

The report covers two UK pilot projects where people were supported with their asylum or immigration cases in the community rather than being detained.  

Compared to locking people up in detention, providing legal counselling and personalised support in the community was more humane and resulted in significant improvements in mental health and wellbeing. 

At the same time, there was no evidence of reduced compliance with the Home Office and the projects were both cheaper and offered better value for money than detention. So why is this government doubling down and planning to open three new detention centres? 

The harm that detention causes is unjustifiable. For LGBTQI+ people, being cut off from communities of support and subjected to discrimination and abuse inside can make it even worse.

Thank you for helping us spread the word that there is another way.


pride socks from someone about to run

Our 30th anniversary fundraising challenge is here

**This challenge has now closed.**

 

We’re turning 30! This year, we’ve been supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system for 30 years.  

Celebrate with us and challenge yourself to complete 30 miles in 30 days during September. Run, walk, swim, cycle, or use a wheelchair or other adaptive equipment to cover 30 miles throughout the month and raise much needed funds to support LGBTQI+ people going through the asylum and immigration system. 


lgbt people at pride

LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum will not be safe on barges

Micro Rainbow and Rainbow Migration firmly condemn this government’s barbaric proposal to house people seeking asylum on barges.

We support Refugee Council’s open letter to Bibby Marine and agree that barges are unsuitable for housing people seeking asylum in the UK. Furthermore, the doubling of the capacity of the barge, and the movement restrictions placed on the people housed there resemble immigration detention, where LGBTQI+ people are particularly at risk of harm. The overcrowded accommodation and the restrictions on movement for the people living at the Bibby Stockholm will replicate many of the conditions of incarceration.

Housing people in prison-like conditions such as those proposed on the Bibby Stockholm risk further traumatising people who are seeking safety and protection. The risks of forced isolation and prison conditions is well known: it is a key facet of Australian border policy. This policy has a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health, and the UK Government knows this. The situation will be even more dire for LGBTQI+ people.

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. Like in detention, they are likely to experience discrimination and harassment from other people seeking asylum who can hold LGBTQI-phobic views. Trans people can be at even greater risk of abuse and may be forced to hide their gender identity.

Rainbow Migration’s 2023 pilot study into LGBTQI+ experiences of detention underlines the fact that detention-like conditions are unsafe for LGBTQI+ people. It is clear that the conditions on the Bibby Stockholm will differ from immigration detention in name only, and are likely to put LGBTQI+ people at increased risk of harm.

Instead, a holistic and community-based response is better suited to safeguarding LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum. Micro Rainbow’s tested and successful holistic approach to integration incorporates housing, social-inclusion and moving-on support, and it is a viable and empathetic alternative. Micro Rainbow’s housing is safe, inclusive for LGBTQI+ people, and integrated into the community. People seeking asylum staying in Micro Rainbow housing are not only safe to express their LGBTQI+ identity but also better able to establish community links and networks of support. They can openly and safely contribute to their local communities.

Micro Rainbow and Rainbow Migration ask that this government commits to the safeguarding of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, and guarantees that LGBTQI+ people will not be housed on barges.


Thank you for speaking out

This week the government’s cruel Refugee Ban Bill was passed by Parliament and became law. We are angry and disappointed, but we won’t stop fighting to make the UK a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum.

This law will deny the right to asylum to thousands of people who need our protection. It will dramatically increase the government’s powers to lock people up while making it even harder to challenge their detention. And it will put LGBTQI+ lives at risk by allowing people to be sent to countries that are not safe for the LGBTQI+ community. 

We wanted to say thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to write to your MP last weekend. Because of you, the need to protect LGBTQI+ people from being sent to countries where they would be at risk of harm was raised by MPs throughout the debate. We were pleased to see the amendment drew support across political parties. 

We are sad to say that we could not change the bill on this occasion, but thank you for speaking out for LGBTQI+ people and showing that whatever this government says, these cruel laws do not represent us. 


Refugee Week analysis by Innocent

How the UK government is turning a blind eye to the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum will face if sent to Rwanda

By *Innocent Uwimana, a gay man from Rwanda who migrated to the UK around 20 years ago. This article was originally published by Pink News.

 

If the Refugee Ban Bill that is currently going through Parliament is passed into law, LGBTQI+ people who come to the UK seeking protection could be sent to countries which are not safe for them, such as Rwanda.  

I had the chance to speak to a group of LGBTQ+ Rwandans in the country, who told me about the discrimination they have faced their entire lives because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  

During an anonymous meeting online, they expressed their concerns about their lives and explained the risks LGBTQI+ people face in Rwanda. 

“We don’t understand how the UK government would send LGBTQ+ people here knowing that they will face discrimination. Though the country’s recent human rights advances have been ‘enormous’, not all Rwandans are able to enjoy them equally

Refugee Week analysis by Innocent

Indeed, Rwanda is one of the few African countries that does not overtly criminalise gay sex, and the country is a signatory to the UN declaration condemning violence against LGBTQ+ people. However, same-sex marriage is prohibited and LGBTQ+ people are not protected from discrimination by any specific legislation.  

LGBTQ+ people face stigmatisation and abuse in Rwanda every day, and there are many cultural and religious factors which fuel hatred against LGBTQI+ people in Rwandan society.” 

The people in the group said that religious and cultural arguments are often used to heavily discriminate against anyone perceived to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

 

Religion as an argument to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. 

Religion is the most common argument people in Rwanda use against LGBTQI+ people. Because of the predominance of Christianity in Rwanda, churches have been particularly vocal in fuelling discrimination against Rwandan LGBTQ+ people.  

Leaders of the Pentecostal and Catholic churches have embraced and been keen to demonstrate bigoted attitudes towards the LGBTQI+ population. 

In addition, many political and social influencers in Rwanda frequently utilise overtly religious justifications to condemn homosexuality, calling it not only “un-Rwandan,” but also “sacrilegious”.  

The UK government needs to understand that Rwandans’ conceptions of the world are substantially shaped by their religious beliefs, and that religious ideas heavily shape their attitudes and behaviours.  

Hostility on the grounds of culture 

On the other hand, some Rwandan leaders, including political and religious leaders, as well as social media influencers, justify discrimination against LGBTQ+ people on the grounds of culture. They claim that homosexuality and non-heteronormative gender identities are not part of the African culture and that they were brought to Africa by Western countries (especially the US and European countries) so as to impose their cultures on Africa.  

Some also claim that Western countries intend to wipe out the African population by promoting homosexuality and discouraging people from heterosexual relationships in which they can have children.   

In Rwanda, homophobia has evolved into a rallying cry that mobilises the masses by urging them to guard themselves against westernisation and to defend their own culture.  

However, there is well documented historical evidence of same sex relationships and gender expression variance in many places in Africa, including Rwanda.  

For example, in Rwanda ‘Cyabakobwa’ (men behaving and dressing as women) and ‘Ibishebago’ (women behaving and dressing as men) were well tolerated and lived in peace in the communities in pre-colonial times.  

Yet unfortunately this is no longer the case, and LGBTQ+ individuals must hide who they are, or are forced to flee to other nations.  

The controversial cases of a Rwandan fashion star and a social media influencer 

The group highlighted the recent case of Moses Turahirwa, a Rwandan fashion star, to illustrate the hostility against LGBTQI+ people in the country.  

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) arrested this well-known Rwandan fashion designer on Thursday, April 27 in Kigali. The day before, he uploaded a photo to social media joking about the fact that his passport’s “gender” field had been changed from “M” to “F,” meaning male to female. “Finally, officially a woman on my identity card”, said the artist, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.  

However, the joke sparked lots of hate speech and discrimination against people perceived to be part of the LGBTQ+ community on the grounds of religious and culture arguments. Many people have expressed that LGBTQ+ people should be killed, and the authorities have turned a blind eye to the situation.  

The government responded by arresting him. On top of being accused of forging official documents, he was also accused of other crimes and the investigation will continue while he remains in custody.  

Hostility against LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda can also be illustrated by the recent case of a famous DJ and social media influencer who has been accused of being a lesbian. Despite her denying this, many religious leaders and social media influencers have attacked her on the media claiming that she should be arrested or beaten up.  

 

“We hope the UK government will hear our voice”  

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 LGBTQ+ people there?  

The group of people I chatted to were surprised that a country like the UK, previously known as respecting human rights, is now consciously planning to send LGBTQI+ people to a place where it is known they will face stigmatisation and discrimination.  

When asked what they hope for from the conversation, the group said, “we hope that the UK government will hear our voice and not put other people in a situation so many others want to get out of. “ 

 

*The name of the author has been changed to protect his identity. 


Big ben and the houses of parliament in london.

MPs raise concerns about this government's plans to detain and send LGBTQI+ people to Rwanda

A new report on equality and the UK asylum process by the Women and Equalities Committee highlights that new legislation could put LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum at greater risk of harm.

Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes MP said: “We were disturbed by the Home Office’s inadequate management of risks of harm to asylum seekers with protected characteristics, including women, LGBT people, children and disabled people. Alarmingly, these risks will increase under the Government’s recent and planned reforms.”

Immigration detention and Rwanda

MPs are “deeply concerned that the current and planned reforms risk turning back the clock on policies intended to ensure detention is used only as a last resort, and to reduce the risks of harm to vulnerable people.” If the Refugee Ban Bill is passed into law, more people could be detained for longer periods of time. This would include LGBTQI+ people, who in detention face bullying, harassment and abuse, with serious consequences for their mental health.

The report recommends this government set out how it plans to mitigate the risks of harm to LGBTQI+ people in detention, and to collect and monitor data on where LGBTQI+ people are detained and for how long. At the moment, the government does not keep track of LGBTQI+ people in detention, which means that they cannot monitor and reduce the harm of detention to LGBTQI+ people.

MPs also expressed their worries about this government’s plans to send LGBTQI+ people to Rwanda and urged it to “set out how it intends to monitor and ensure those removed to Rwanda do not suffer harm or experience discrimination in that country”.

At Rainbow Migration, we have called out Rwanda as a country where LGBTQI+ people are subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse. The situation for LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda is so poor that it LGBTQI+ Rwandans have sought asylum in the UK.

“This report, for which Rainbow Migration gave oral and written evidence, is sending a very clear message to this government. The inhumane policies towards people seeking asylum in the UK have to stop immediately. This government’s legislation will put LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in dangerous situations, by detaining them in greater numbers and sending them to countries where they could face discrimination and violence”, said Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, “instead, this government needs to focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness”.

Dangerous accommodation arrangements for LGBTQI+ people

The report also highlights that new contingency accommodation, such as military barracks and barges, being used by this government to house people wanting to rebuild their lives in the UK, is “unacceptable from both safeguarding and equalities perspective”, as it puts LGBTQI+ people at heightened risk of hate crime.

Leila Zadeh gave examples of the harassment and abuse experienced by LGBTQI+ people in government-provided accommodation. She explained that in the case of one man in military barracks, he was “ harassed by the others there, and there was no private space—the showers were communal, and they were sleeping in dorms, effectively. We worked very hard with other partner NGOs to try to get this person out but, to our knowledge, vulnerable people are being placed in accommodation like barracks and other forms of contingency accommodation which are completely unsuitable.

 

It’s not too late for the Prime Minister to stop this. Add your name to show the Refugee Ban Bill does not represent us.


A person holding a rainbow flag in front of a blue sky.

Pride: The right to be safe and to be yourself

A person holding a rainbow flag in front of a blue sky.

For Pride season, we have come together with Micro Rainbow and Refugee Action to highlight the voices of LGBTQI+ people who have or are seeking refugee status in the UK.

We talked to Michael, from West Africa; Zarith, from Southeast Asia; and Tony, from Africa, three gay men who came to the UK because they weren’t safe back home. They explained  the challenges of going through the asylum system, the Refugee Ban Bill and also asked them to send a message to the Home Secretary.


Understanding immigration detention - part 2

This is the second of a two-part blog answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get on social media about our No Pride in Detention campaign. 

 

How many people in immigration detention are LGBTQI+?  

We cannot be sure of how many LGBTQI+ people are in detention, because this government does not collect or monitor the data.  

The Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the government for not collecting data on this, as it makes it impossible to accurately identify how many LGBTQI+ people are being detained.  

What we do know is that even one LGBTQI+ person being locked up for months on end and subjected to bullying, is one too many. 

Is there anything official, or any studies, which prove that LGBTQI+ people face violence in detention centres? 

Together with Stonewall, we published No Safe Refuge in 2016. The report highlighted the systemic discrimination, abuse and harassment that LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum faced both by staff and other people detained. The findings were stark – they faced physical and verbal abuse, deteriorating mental health, inadequate medical care and discriminatory attitudes from staff.   

Earlier this year, the University of Brighton published a pilot study that found that UK detention centres continue to be very dangerous places for LGBTQI+ people, with participants reporting attacks from other detained people and inaction from staff in the face of escalating abuse. 

On top of the UK evidence, similar conclusions have been reached internationally. The International Detention Coalition published a report in June 2016 reiterating that marginalised individuals should never be placed in immigration detention. Their report found that “LGBTQI+ persons face heightened levels of harassment, discrimination, psychological abuse, physical and sexual violence by detention staff as well as other detainees. They are frequently segregated in conditions falling below those of the general detainee population and well-established international standards, or are subjected to policies of solitary confinement, which have been shown to have severe mental and physical health consequences. Almost universally, LGBTQI+ people in detention are in situations of extreme vulnerability”. 

And in its detention guidelines, the UNHCR (the UN agency responsible for monitoring and protecting refugees) warns that measures must be taken to avoid exposing LGBTQI+ people to the risk of violence or abuse in detention. Where their safety cannot be ensured, alternatives to detention must be considered. The guidelines suggest that LGBTQI+ people should never be kept in isolation or confinement, that all detention staff should be aware and trained in issues relating to LGBTQI+ people, and that LGBTQI+ people should have access to appropriate healthcare and counselling.  

 

What would a victory look like for you and your campaign? 

A win would mean lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people are included in the Adults at Risk Policy. We also need to see improvements to that policy, to ensure that those at risk of harm are correctly identified and excluded from detention.  

Ending the detention of LGBTQI+ people who are fleeing persecution in their home countries would help keep them safer in the UK. No-one should be locked away as punishment for seeking safety. Supporting people in the community would give LGBTQI+ people the chance to live with dignity and to be open about who they are while they pursue permission to stay in the UK. It would give them a better chance to gather evidence and find appropriate legal representation for their claims.  

We also want the government to set a time limit of 28 days on all detention, to limit the harms that it is causing to everyone affected – not just the LGBTQI+ community.  

These wins would be the start of a much-needed overhaul of the UK’s asylum and detention system. We hope it would lead on to meaningful investment in alternatives to detention, declining numbers being detained, and ultimately the end of the use of immigration detention in the UK.  

Was this blog helpful? If so, you can read the first part of the blog.  And if you want to take action, you can ask your MP to oppose LGBTQI+ detention.


We are hiring Legal and Policy Director

We are hiring: Legal and Policy Director

***THIS RECRUITMENT HAS NOW CLOSED***

Rainbow Migration is the longest running UK charity dedicated to supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system. We are a respected charity across the UK and Europe, well known for our proactive work with MPs, civil servants, media, law firms, and the judiciary, to name just a few, and this is in addition to the valuable delivery work to service users.

We are looking for a new Legal and Policy Director to lead and develop our unique immigration advice service and draw on the experiences of our service users to influence positive change in the asylum and immigration system.

The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate a track record in providing legal advice as well as influencing policy. You will have the confidence and gravitas to deal with high profile individuals, the media, influencers and stakeholders and enjoy working in collaboration with similar groups to effect systemic change.

This is an exciting time to join us; the political landscape keeps us on our toes, we are a close knit hard working team, we are in our 30th year, and we will be commencing the implementation of our new organisational strategy.

You will:

  • Work with the Executive Director, Campaigns Manager and Communications Manager to develop a policy influencing strategy
  • Apply your litigation and policy experience to deliver change in areas such as refugee status determination, detention and asylum support
  • Lead strategic litigation in the UK and the European Court of Human Rights
  • Be responsible for the design and delivery of Rainbow Migration’s legal advice service, ensure compliance with regulators, and supervise the delivery of immigration advice on asylum and partnership applications by staff and volunteer lawyers
  • Line manage our Legal Officer and assist them in delivering advice on LGBTQI+ asylum, especially complex claims
  • Manage relationships with legal aid and pro bono law firms
  • Design and deliver training to lawyers, charities and others
  • Build knowledge and skills among immigration caseworkers and lawyers to represent LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum

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. See our website for more information.

Contract type: Permanent

Hours: Full-time (35 hours per week). We will consider part-time or job share. Occasional evening work is required, and possibly at weekends, 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 £60,000 with potential annual step increases up to £64,946 (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: Rainbow Migration’s offices are based in Borough, Central London. This role will have an office-based contract but the postholder can choose to work from home for part of the week in agreement with the Executive Director. You must be available to work from our offices in London when necessary. The successful candidate would also be welcome to work from the office full-time if that is their preference. At the time of posting this advert, none of our staff are going into the office every day. There might also be occasional travel outside London with plenty of notice.

Annual leave: 25 days per year rising after 24 months by 1 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

Please read the job description and person specification.

For an informal conversation about the role please contact

Applications should be sent to 

Application is by way of CV with a Supporting Statement that should set out your motivations for applying for this role and to this charity and how your work experience to date meets the scope of the responsibilities. As a general guide, your Supporting Statement should be around two sides of A4.

Closing date: Interviews will be held on a rolling basis so please apply ASAP

 

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. 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 and people of colour who are currently underrepresented among our staff. We will also interview all disabled applicants who meet the necessary criteria for this vacancy.

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 at www.ebeemployment.org.uk/ebe which may help in preparing your job application.

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.

 

Your privacy and data protection

In order to recruit and manage staff, Rainbow Migration needs to store personal information (data) about all applicants. Rainbow Migration is registered as a “controller of personal data” under the Data Protection Act 2018 with the Information Commissioner. By applying for this role, you agree that we will keep the information on your CV, covering email, audio or video recording. Please see our privacy policy.

Monitoring information is kept separately and is pseudonymised to avoid identification of applicants. Monitoring information is amalgamated for statistical purposes and the original data then destroyed.

Rainbow Migration keeps all personal information safely and securely, and does not share your information with anyone outside Rainbow Migration or any other organisation without your consent. Information is kept for the minimum period necessary which for CVs, covering emails, video and audio recordings for unsuccessful applicants is 12 months after the conclusion of the recruitment campaign.