"I fled Rwanda due to homophobia - I fear for gay refugees being sent there."

Innocent Uwimana is a gay man from Rwanda who fled to the UK twenty years ago. He told us and Metro his story. This is a summary, but you can read the full article here. 

 

Innocent came to the UK as a 16-year-old to escape rampant homophobia in Rwanda. He is appalled that the government plans to send LGBTQI+ people who come to the UK seeking safety, to Rwanda, a country which does not protect the rights of LGBTQI+ people. 

Innocent was physically abused by classmates. He was regularly violently attacked. He tried to change and fit in, yet the bullying only got worse. He turned to a local priest for guidance but was told he was going to “burn in hell” because of his sexuality. 

“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.” 

He knew he had to leave Rwanda to live safely as a gay man. After losing much of his family in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Innocent decided to come to the UK.  

Whilst Rwanda has made great strides since the war, LGBTQI+ people are not protected. Illegal arrests, false charges, and detention of LGBTQI+ people are common in Rwanda. LGBTQI+ people who ‘come out’ face harassment in places of work, and discrimination in the job and housing markets. They are significantly more likely to be homeless and unemployed. Fearing rejection from their family and wider society, many marry someone of the opposite sex to keep themselves safe.  

Once he came to the UK, Innocent learned to accept himself as a gay man, and now leads a “happy, normal life”. Innocent experienced numerous violent, homophobic attacks as a teenager in Rwanda, and he says the situation is no better for LGBTQI+ Rwandans today. The country is not safe for LGBTQI+ people, and Innocent urges all human rights defenders to oppose the government’s plan. 

 


We are hiring: Legal and Support Services Assistant

**This opportunity has now closed**

We are recruiting a Legal and Support Services Assistant to act as a first point of contact for the charity and assist the legal and support services.

We have been supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system and campaigning for their rights since 1993. We now have an opportunity for a Legal and Support Services Assistant who will help ensure smooth delivery and monitoring of our services. You will be the first point of contact for new service users and play a key role in providing the information they need and allocating to the relevant services.

This role will receive full training and support as required to deliver your responsibilities:

  • Provide admin support for the legal and support services teams
  • Answer calls and emails
  • Make appointments for service users or signpost them to other organisations
  • Organise monthly legal advice sessions
  • Input data onto our Salesforce database
  • Write minutes for legal and support service team meetings
  • Assist with running events (e.g. Christmas party)
  • Assist with preparations for training and presentations

 

Our vision is a world where there is equality, dignity, respect and safety for all people in the expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our values are:

  • Safety: We believe everyone should be safe from persecution and safe to be themselves. We strive to create a safe workplace culture, and we place importance on the wellbeing of everyone involved with Rainbow Migration.
  • Integrity: We are thorough and honest in everything we do, and we take responsibility for our actions. We want to be accountable to our communities and those who support us.
  • Belonging: We welcome and include all LGBTQI+ people, and we celebrate and value their range of experience in terms of gender, religion, race, age, disability status and class. We try to remove obstacles to participation, champion equality and promote a sense of family or home through our services.
  • Respect: We believe that every person is equal and deserves the same level of courtesy, care, and attention. We respect the rights, wishes and feelings of our service users, and campaign for their rights to be respected as they go through the asylum and immigration system.

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 the successful applicant will be required at the point of conditional job offer to disclose all unspent criminal records and subsequently to undergo a basic DBS check. See our website for more information.

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 £21,101 with potential annual step increases up to £22,385 (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: Our offices are based in Borough, Central London, and this role would normally be office-based. At the time of posting this advert, all Rainbow Migration staff are working from home due to Covid-19. A mix of working at home and/or the office is likely for the foreseeable future. You must be available to work from our offices in London when face-to-face service delivery resumes, from which time 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).

How to apply:

Closing date: 10 am, Thursday 14 July

Interview dates: TBC

Please 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 email your CV, covering statement, and optional monitoring form to recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk. When writing your covering statement, please 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 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. Please make your statement no longer than two A4 pages.

Please also confirm in your statement if you wished 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).

Please also state how many hours you wish to work.

If you have questions about the role, please email recruitment@rainbowmigration.org.uk.

 

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. See here for more details.

 

Privacy Notice: 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 and covering statement. 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 and covering statements for unsuccessful applicants is 12 months after the conclusion of the recruitment campaign.


Open letter to the Foreign Secretary regarding the safety and security of LGBTQI+ Afghans

Dear Foreign Secretary,

We are writing to you with great urgency regarding the safety and security of LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan who have contacted us and who need protection and safe passage to the UK.

LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan and their contacts have been reaching out to us at great risk given their vulnerability under the Taliban. We also know that these members of our community are not an exception. We are aware of other LGBTQ+ Afghans who have been seeking the support of civil society in both Australia and the USA. All of these individuals share a grave fear of being early targets of the new regime simply because they are LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the Government’s evacuation programme unless they receive targeted support.

We write today to call for your leadership in creating the conditions needed for LGBTQ+ Afghans to be evacuated. We request an urgent meeting to share our
insights and support you and your teams to develop an appropriate response that includes LGBTQ+ Afghans as a priority group for assistance immediately.

 

Humanitarian corridors

Like all those seeking to flee, it is clear that robust security efforts are needed for vulnerable people to be able to leave the country to seek safety.

For this reason, we are calling on this government to work in concert with other aligned Governments to open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of LGBTQ+ people, similar to corridors used by the UK Government in other emergency contexts such as Uganda or the former Yugoslavia. We fear that the withdrawal of those secure passages at an early date leaves no further opportunity for ensuring the security of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ+ Afghans.

Civil society outside of Afghanistan who are already in touch with those trying to leave could support LGBTQ+ Afghans to make a case for evacuation securely
immediately, enabling them to leave the country while it remains possible.

 

Resettlement

We recognise and welcome the bilateral efforts of the UK in quickly establishing the resettlement programme, but share concerns that the scale of the planned programme does not come close to meeting the protection need. We applaud the government’s commitment to resettling those most vulnerable and we look for your assurances that this will include LGBTQ+ people. It is essential for UNHCR to work with LGBTQ+ civil society organisations to ensure this happens and that any screening process takes this into account the fact that LGBTQ+ people who flee will not be able to readily disclose and evidence their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We hope to meet you urgently to discuss how we can implement support for LGBTQ+ Afghans.

Yours sincerely,

Leila Zadeh (Executive Director, Rainbow Migration)

Nancy Kelley (Chief Executive, Stonewall)


Our response to the 'cold-hearted and cruel' Nationality and Borders Bill 

Today the government announced  changes to the asylum system, which include proposals such as: 

  • Housing people in overseas reception centres while their asylum claim is being processed 
  • Requiring claims to be made immediately on arrival and all evidence to be submitted at the beginning of the asylum process 
  • Forcing people in detention centres who want to appeal decisions to refuse them refugee protection to go through a rushed process 
  • Curtailing the right to challenge decisions refusing refugee protection 

Responding to the government’s proposals, Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, said:

“It’s already difficult for LGBTQI+ people who are fleeing persecution to get safety in the UK, and these cruel proposals will make it even harder. Many of them will have been hiding their sexual orientation or gender identity for a long time, and this government is asking them to overcome a lifetime of discrimination and fear to disclose that they are LGBTQI+ to a complete stranger immediately on arrival in a new country and expecting them to provide evidence at the same time.”

“Being shipped off to processing centres abroad will be tantamount to torture for LGBTQI+ people. As a form of institutional accommodation for large numbers of people, these centres will be fertile ground for homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to run rampant. The people housed there will be even more isolated and at risk, and unable to receive any support from charities like us.” 

 “Keeping people in such a dangerous environment will force them into the closet for their own protection. That doesn't help when you have to ‘prove' you are LGBTQI+ in order to be granted protection. This essentially amounts to a double punishment for LGBTQI+ people seeking safety."

“These proposals make an already ineffective and inhumane system even more cold-hearted and cruel. This government should focus on creating a kind and compassionate asylum system, rather than on causing further distress to people who are only looking for a place to live in safety and dignity.” 


The UK Gay and Lesbian Immigration Group is now called Rainbow Migration

On International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we are excited to announce our new name: Rainbow Migration.

Our new brand marks a new period in our future, while focusing on the issues that matter most to us: supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system.

Over the past 28 years, we have helped thousands of LGBTQI+ people live safe and fulfilling lives in the UK. However, our former name no longer reflected who we are as an organisation that welcomes all of the LGBTQI+ community. In Rainbow Migration and in the warm and vibrant colours of our new brand, we have found a name and visual identity that reflects what we do and who we are, and embraces all the communities that we work for and support.

Alongside our new name and logo – which have been developed over the past two years with extensive consultation with over 500 supporters and stakeholders – we are launching our brand new website. We hope you will find it easier to use and full of valuable information for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum and couples making immigration applications.

Our new logo combines two themes: a rainbow and an arrow. The rainbow is a symbol of freedom in many cultures and reflects the idea of hope and possibilities that are out there. It is also the most widely recognised LGBTQI+ symbol in the world. The arrow symbolises migration and movement. It is also a nod to our previous logo, linking the old with the new.

These two powerful symbols together reflect the story of Rainbow Migration – we are proud to be an organisation that supports LGBTQI+ people on their journey to a new life. We are ready to move forward, inspired by our fresh look and our new name.


LGBTQI+ People Seeking Asylum and HIV: ‘I’d rather deal with a real elephant!’

We work with people from all around the world and wellbeing is the focus of our support services. Everyone has a different experience of HIV but a common theme has been that HIV support and prevention services are a territory that are not always known and come with their own set of risks. ‘We should talk about the elephant in the room,’ I’d said, in one of our support groups discussing being safe in Queer spaces. Once I’d explained what the saying meant and focused on the topic, our service users seemed more daunted to discuss HIV than if an elephant had been in the room. Some of our service users actually curled up on their chairs or hugged the person next to them. ‘I’d rather deal with a real elephant!’ one said.

A fundamental lack of understanding and fear of contacting the NHS could have massive implications on someone’s health and wellbeing. Our service users have many fears about accessing a service: determining if it is an LGBTQI+ friendly space as well as a safe space for people seeking asylum. Add to that the concern that they may see someone from their home community in the building, or, if attending somewhere local, be seen accessing the building. Already, before they have even walked through the door, there are many anxieties and complications.

We know that GP services are available to people seeking asylum, but this is not always the message reception staff in GP surgeries and walk-in centres communicate to vulnerable individuals. This leaves those same vulnerable people even more confused and with a reinforced fear that they should not be accessing a service. We know that those who have suffered trauma can shy away from advocating for themselves and sometimes feel they don’t want to be a ‘burden’ to the country where they are claiming asylum. This is dangerous breeding ground for denial or for not getting the help someone needs.

What about people seeking asylum already living with HIV? They have many of the fears the others have plus the weight it bears on their support mechanisms. How can they possibly have open and honest conversations about their status when their minds are already filled with concerns like: if my partner finds out, he will dump me…or, if my friend finds out, they will not let me sleep on their sofa… or, if the rest of the house finds or opens a letter, I will be targeted…

One of our team supported someone who did not want to take any anti-viral medicine as their partner would find out about their status and they relied on the partner to translate for them. This obviously put the individual and the partner at great risk. We had several challenging conversations and helped them get some support from PositivelyUK and Doctors of the World.

I offered one-to-one sessions with a young man who contracted the virus from someone he met on an app. He was very angry and felt numb and unable to communicate his feelings and continued to engage in risky behaviours. I did some work on anger management and voicing his trauma and we signposted him to a local mental health charity but he said he felt guilty that he had ‘betrayed his freedom’; he was claiming asylum and now he had HIV. When I told him that he could live a relatively normal life with medicine in the UK, he was confused and perplexed; he was still holding onto misconceptions of the virus from back home and the practices to cure it there, which had triggered him.

So how do we help people seeking asylum navigate the services available? Have conversations, talk about the difficult things, recognise the common themes and that which is difficult as well as the relevant solutions needed. Normalise their fears. After all, these are many of the fears and concerns young people coming out have.

Some of our service users organised a day trip to access a sexual health clinic where they could get advice about PEP and PrEP that was far away from their community on the other side of London. In our support group meeting that week we practised what they might ask about. In the evening I received a phone call to say it had gone well and they felt empowered to access somewhere like this and take the reins.

A support service like ours offers a range of support – if you meet a person seeking asylum who is LGBTQI+, the single most important thing you can do is to advise they engage with a specific support service such as ours. LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum don’t always have peers who can support and challenge them when needed. I am in regular contact with places like Dean Street and Mortimer Market (leading sexual health services and HIV support for the LGBTQI+ community) and they are aware that a little extra time and support can go a long way with people seeing asylum. We’ve even had referrals from these services for people in need of a lawyer.

I remember at the end of that support group meeting where I addressed the elephant in the room, after I had spoken a service user turned around and said: ‘You mean…we must invite the elephant in and have a cup of tea? Let it all be ok?’ They had summed it up perfectly: keep talking, keep supporting, keep empowering.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.