The government has disregarded Rainbow Migration’s concerns about possible discrimination against LGBTQI+ refugees under their New Plan for Immigration, saying they will mitigate them with “appropriate training of relevant staff”.
In March, the government announced sweeping changes to the asylum system and launched a consultation on their New Plan for Immigration for stakeholder feedback. The proposals were brought to parliament on 6 July in the Nationality and Borders Bill, and include plans such as housing people in overseas reception centres while their asylum claims are processed, requiring claims to be made immediately on arrival in the UK and potentially ignoring any evidence that is submitted later in the asylum process.
If implemented, these changes to the asylum system could disproportionately impact LGBTQI+ people. Rainbow Migration responded to the government’s consultation and highlighted this concern. In response, the Home Office said:
“Our analysis is that with appropriate mitigation and justification, any [equalities] impacts would not amount to unlawful indirect discrimination. Mitigating actions will include appropriate training of relevant staff, including first responders, and in particular social workers and carers, who will assist in the identification of vulnerable individuals, clear guidance to operational teams on areas such as interviewing and ensuring someone will be able to choose the gender of their interpreter and interviewer.”
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, said:
“This government’s cruel proposed changes to the asylum system will make it much more difficult for anyone to get safety in the UK, but will be particularly harsh on LGBTQI+ people. Due to the nature of asylum claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity, these plans could result in many LGBTQI+ people who have fled persecution being refused refugee protection. Giving staff LGBTQI+ awareness training won’t make a difference when the whole system is stacked against LGBTQI+ people. The only way to mitigate the impact of these proposals on LGBTQI+ people is not to implement them.”
“Many LGBTQI+ people fleeing persecution are not even aware that they can be given protection on account of being LGBTQI+, or might feel shame and fear about talking about their sexual orientation or gender identity, so they often apply for asylum long after arriving in the country. In order to be granted safety, LGBTQI+ people need to ‘prove’ they are LGBTQI+, and gathering that evidence takes time.”
“LGBTQI-phobic violence and harassment are rife in immigration detention, and the proposed reception centres will be no different – LGBTQI+ people placed there will be subjected to abuse and harassment.”