Two men talking at a table in an office.

UKLGIG responds to the outsourcing of asylum interviews

The Home Office has announced that it plans to bring in commercial contractors to carry out asylum interviews and gather evidence for claims, which are used to determine whether applicants should be granted refugee status.

Reacting to the news, UKLGIG Executive Director Leila Zadeh said:

“We’re extremely concerned to hear the Home Office is planning to outsource asylum interviews. The most important part of an asylum claim is telling your story and explaining why you believe it’s not safe for you to go back to your country of origin. It’s hard to imagine that commercial contractors will be well equipped to deal with the complexities and sensitivities of LGBTQI+ asylum claims. We urge the Home Office to reverse this decision and ensure they recruit and train their own staff to carry out interviews and decisions on asylum claims.”

Two people working on a computer in an office.

Our response to the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report

The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: May 2020 was released today (21 May).

We welcome the fact that fewer people are in detention, but it’s concerning that 650 people were in detention for more than 28 days, including one person who was held for almost three years.

The figures also show that almost two-thirds of those released from detention were released back into the community, so their detention served no purpose.

It’s good news that the asylum grant rate by the Home Office has increased, but 59% of people had to wait for more than six months for a decision.

A woman is talking to another woman in a living room.

UKLGIG responds to the Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention report

Today’s publication of the Independent Chief Inspector’s audit report on the Home Office’s Adults at Risk policy has highlighted a contradiction in the Home Office’s own policies and guidance. On the one hand, they say sexual orientation is not a risk factor, and elsewhere they recognise that open expression of your sexual orientation could lead to bullying.

The Independent Chief Inspector also recommends that the Home Office overhauls the way it collects data and information about the people it detains. The report finds that the Home Office is not collecting any data on LGBTQI+ people held in detention and that therefore it cannot say if its risk assessments are meeting the needs of LGBTQI+ individuals.

UKLGIG Executive Director Leila Zadeh said: “It is not right to expect any LGBTQI+ person to have to hide who they are in order to protect themselves in detention, while at the same time expecting them to be open in order to be granted refugee status.”

“Various sources of international law recognise that detention of LGBTQI+ people places them at risk. The UK government should end the detention of all LGBTQI+ people if it is truly committed to making sure they are safe and live without fear of harassment.”

A young woman smiling in front of a red wall.

Taking care of yourself during COVID-19

We know that this must be an extremely challenging time for you, our service users. As most of you are aware, we won’t be running our monthly meetings, support groups or social events during this time and our office is currently closed. However, we continue to offer legal advice, emotional and practical support via phone and email. We are looking into setting up our support groups in virtual form. Please continue to contact us through email, the group chat and the office phone.

In this time it is important you look after yourselves. Please try and:

  • Look after yourself from a practical point. Please try and make wise choices with your money. Dried or canned food, rice, fruit and vegetables would be a wiser way to spend your money than on cigarettes, alcohol or convenience food/takeaways, at the moment. They are often cheaper too. Some people have had success at buying groceries in the smaller shops or early in the morning.
  • Use the group chats to generally support one another and be positive. There have been lovely messages of hope and humour, and these are very important right now. The messages/links about where this virus came from or herbal folk remedies aren’t helpful right now. What is important is that we get through this and you are safe and looked after. There have been lovely messages of encouragement so please keep this up! Share tips, recipes, fun clips, general info and I will continue to do the same in our group chats.
  • For those that are still using saunas and hook-up apps like Grindr, please be mindful that emergency PEP clinics will only be offering a very reduced service, and may well close temporarily. Please look after yourselves and think about possible risky behaviours.
  • Ensure that you have enough of the prescribed medicines that you normally take.
  • Be kind, have patience and know that many others will try and do the same, too. This is a difficult time but what is becoming apparent is the generosity of community and the many people out there trying to help.
  • Be vigilant. There are also those out there looking to use this situation to their benefit.
  • Look at the links below.
  • In the groups we have spoken about parenting yourself. It may be you have to be the one who looks after you – and every one of you has the skillset to do that, you have demonstrated that when sharing and helping others in our groups.
  • Contact us if you need legal or emotional or practical support. We will do what we can. Reach out to us if you are very worried or concerned about your wellbeing – please!
  • Do some positive activities: watch comedy, ring a friend, cook or start a conversation on our group chats.

We are so proud of you all. We have seen you grow as a group and nurture one another, embrace challenges/obstacles and find solutions –  all whilst trying to navigate the asylum process.

A boy holding a rainbow flag.

LGBTQI+ people are at risk in detention MPs tell government

Report by the Home Affairs Select Committee urges government to ‘recognise that LGBTQI+ people are vulnerable in immigration detention’. 

An inquiry into immigration detention by the Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the government for not recognising lesbian, gay and bisexual people as adults at risk in immigration detention centres. The report drew on the experiences of LGBTQI+ people subjected to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination, abuse and harassment inside detention centres.  

The Committee say the Home Office has a ‘shockingly cavalier attitude’ to immigration detention and ‘overseen serious failings in almost every area of the immigration detention process’. The inquiry found that the most vulnerable detainees are not being afforded the necessary protection. 

The report also relays concerns that detention has a direct impact on the prospects of LGBTQI+ people in need of protection being recognised as refugees.  

The Committee calls for the government to extend the recognition that it already affords to trans and intersex people as vulnerable in immigration detention to all LGBTQI+ people. It also calls on the government to monitor and publish statistics on the number of LGBTQI+ people it detains. 

Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), said, 

“Placing LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in immigration detention centres is dangerous. There is a significant risk of LGBTQI+ people being locked up among people who may display the same discriminatory attitudes and hostility from which they have fled.  

LGBTQI+ people also frequently struggle to be granted refugee status if they have to make their asylum applications from inside a detention centre.  

The government should give greater consideration to alternatives to detention that allow LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum to remain in the community while their claims are processed”. 

In its report, the Committee also calls for an end to indefinite detention and a maximum 28-day time limit.  

Bojana Asanovic, Barrister and Chair of UKLGIG, said, 

“Home Office decisions to detain people should be subject to review by a judge. We need a 28 day time limit on all immigration detention, which should be cumulative and integrate robust safeguards”.