LGBT Ambassadors inside Gay's the Word

Pride season with IMIX: LGBTQI+ people seeking safety

LGBT Ambassadors inside Gay's the Word
LGBTQI+ Ambassadors. Credit: IMIX/Kasia Clark

By Ahmed Elmi, this is a summary article – original post can be found at IMIX

To celebrate Pride month, IMIX invited five queer sanctuary seeking people to the world-famous Gay’s The Word bookshop in London’s King’s Cross, to highlight the importance of safe spaces for queer people, and to raise awareness about the plight of LGBTQI+ people who have refugee status around the word. There are still almost 70 countries in the world where it is against the law to publicly identify as LGBTQI+, including roughly 70% of the Commonwealth countries associated with the British Crown. This has sadly resulted in many lesbians, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals having to flee their own countries in order to seek safety.  

LGBTQI+ Asylum in the United Kingdom 

Of the handful of countries around the world that allow queer people to seek asylum, the United Kingdom is one of them. However, many queer people experience anti-LGBTQI+ hostility in the UK asylum system. For example, there have been vast reports about the procedures queer people are put through when they claim asylum, including humiliating ‘tests’ to see if they are, in fact, homosexual or bisexual, with ‘flamboyancy’ in gay men being used as credible way to discern their sexuality, in some cases. It has been said that there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ in the system when it comes to LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, as 4 in 10 claimants say that their cases are outright rejected on the basis that they cannot ‘prove’ that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, or that their life was in danger before they fled. This will further increase as Clause 31 of the Nationality and Borders Bill comes into effect, as it raises the ‘standard of proof’Unbelievable – Help us say no to raising the standard of proof! for queerness.  

In recent months the threat to LGBTQI+ asylum in the UK has proved to be even more precarious, with the threat of deportation and detention increasing, as the Government’s Rwanda offshoring scheme becomes a dangerous risk for LGBT people seeking safety in this country. As many campaigners have pointed out, ‘ill treatment’ of LGBT people in Rwanda is still rife. 

LGBTQI+ Ambassadors 

The ambassadors in this campaign each have a unique experience of the system, as well as escaping some harsh realities in their respective home countries. From fleeing family and community violence to sleeping rough on the streets and being placed in detention, these resilient queer people have a story worth telling. One that reacquaints us with the original ethos of ‘Pride’ and why it still resonates in 2022.  

LGBT Ambassadors for Pride month meeting at Gay's the Word
LGBTQI+ Ambassadors. Credit: IMIX/Kasia Clark

Rainbow flag waving

4 facts about LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK

June marks Pride Month, a time to celebrate LGBTQI+ rights and the history and contributions of LGBTQI+ people to the world. But also a time to reflect and raise awareness about the issues that many in our community still face.  

We know that LGBTQI+ asylum can sound confusing sometimes, particularly when you need to go through lengthy articles with a lot of legal terms that you might not be used to. That's why, to launch Pride Month this year, we're explaining the key facts you need to know about LGBTQI+ asylum in the UK. 

 

Why do LGBTQI+ people have to flee their countries of origin?  

Across the world LGBTQI+ people suffer abuse and discrimination just because of who they are or who they love. In some countries, colonial-era “sodomy laws” make same-sex relations unlawful and punishable with prison sentences, while in others, homosexuality can even be punishable by death.  

In other countries, same-sex relations are not criminalised as such, but neither are LGBTQI+ individuals protected by the State. In these places LGBTQI+ people are still at risk of abuse and discrimination and may face grave threats to their safety and lives.  

For instance, it has been reported that the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan have “dramatically worsened” under Taliban rule, while violent gangs in Central American countries single out and threaten to kill LGBTQI+ people, with trans women being at heightened risk.   

 

What is the process for claiming asylum in the UK like for LGBTQI+ people?  

LGBTQI+ people that seek safety in the UK still experience discrimination and abuse throughout the asylum process. 

Our research has shown that the government routinely disbelieves LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum and disregards statements from friends, partners and LGBTQI+ organisations testifying to their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

During their asylum claims, LGBTQI+ people must ‘prove’ their sexual orientation or gender identity to officials, and make sure that their ‘coming out’ story is credible enough. This is extremely difficult, and providing evidence is a huge challenge. Many will have spent years hiding who they are in their country of origin, or could put friends and exes at risk by contacting them. Even if some people can provide evidence from their time in the UK, this relies on them being “out” in a certain way, which not everyone might feel comfortable with - particularly those used to living in secret or who have experienced trauma. 

 

Do LGBTQI+ people know that they are entitled to protection?  

LGBTQI+ people often apply for asylum weeks, months or even years after arriving in the UK. Many do not know that they are eligible for refugee protection on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity, and some – especially younger people – may not realise they are LGBTQI+ until they have lived here for some time. People may also come to the UK as students, tourists or to work and only later become too afraid to return home, for example when word about their sexual orientation travels back home. 

  

Where and how do LGBTQI+ people live while they are seeking refugee status?  

While in the asylum process, LGBTQI+ people are usually placed in accommodation in the community with other people seeking asylum. However, many find themselves trapped in housing situations where they face harassment and abuse from other residents, who may be from the very countries they have fled. Sometimes, they can also be placed in immigration detention centres, where the isolation is more extreme and bullying and abuse are rife. 

To make matters worse, people seeking asylum in the UK are not allowed to claim benefits or work. If they are destitute and have no other means of supporting themselves, they can apply to receive asylum support, which is set at around £5.66 per day, so less than £40 per week – that’s almost the price of a 7-day London travelcard. 

 

“You bring us together, make us feel like we are all a family” 

The quote above is from an LGBTQI+ person going through the asylum process that attends our support services.  

At Rainbow Migration, we believe everyone should be safe from persecution and safe to be themselves. That’s why, while LGBTQI+ people go through the system, we provide legal advice as well as practical and emotional support.  

If you found this article on facts about LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK interesting, during Pride Month, you can do your bit by sharing it with friends and colleagues. You can also sign up to our newsletter to receive news about how you can help us campaign for an asylum and immigration system that treats LGBTQI+ people fairly and with dignity.  


We are hiring: Operations and Office Manager

***This opportunity has now closed***

We are recruiting an Operations and Office Manager to support our growing team and expanding operations.

We have been supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system and campaigning for their rights since 1993. We are recruiting an Operations and Office Manager to support the organisation’s ongoing development by helping ensure the charity has necessary systems in place (and managing them) and is acting in line with policies and procedures. You will lead on HR and finance functions and oversee administrative processes to ensure the smooth running of the organisation.

You will:

  • Manage and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of systems that support delivery of our mission such as office management and administration, IT and HR
  • Work closely with the Executive Director to manage our finances
  • Provide support to trustee meetings and our forthcoming refugee advisory group
  • Lead on our HR processes, with training provided as needed in order to develop knowledge in this area
  • Act as our administrator for our database on Salesforce, with training provided as needed
  • Line manage our Administrator/Bookkeeper

 

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.

 

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 – 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.

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.

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 £36,656 with potential annual step increases up to £40,837 (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.

Contract type: Permanent

Location: Our offices are based in Borough, central London. All staff are currently working from home due to Covid-19. A mix of working at home and/or the office is likely for the foreseeable future. There might be occasional travel outside London with plenty of notice.

Annual leave: 25 days per year, increasing by one day per holiday year after two years of employment up to a maximum of 28 days (pro rata if working part-time).

How to apply:

Closing date: 10 am, Tuesday 14 June

Interview dates: 20 and 21 June 2022

Please read the job description and person specification. Email your CV and covering letter, along with 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 and 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).

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 in your application is true and correct and that you understand that any false information or statement given may result in  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.

 

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.


IDAHOBIT: Feeling free and safe from harm

LGBTQI+ people that seek safety in the UK have had to flee violence and persecution in their countries of origin.

Sometimes they have fled countries where same-sex relations are against the law and punishable with prison sentences. Others have fled places where homosexuality is even punishable by death. And then there are LGBTQI+ people, with trans people at highest risk, who face a lack of state protection that often exposes them to hate crimes.

“I spent approximately 20 years of my life dealing with the prejudices, discrimination and transphobia, resulting from the lack of laws that would protect our lives and our human rights”.

Sasha, from Guatemala

 

Once they get here, they expect to feel safe and to have a chance to rebuild their lives free from violence and from homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia. However, instead of that, most of them encounter a long and often cruel asylum process in which their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is called into question. It also sends them to temporary accommodation and detention centres where they can face further abuse and isolation. And, depending on the route they took to flee violence, they soon might end up being sent 4,000 miles away to a place where they have no connections.

On the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) we need to come together to raise awareness of the violence and discrimination that LGBTQI+ people face around the world and the challenges that those seeking asylum face here in the UK.

Help us remind this government that we need a compassionate asylum system that allows LGBTQI+ people to overcome the traumatic experiences they’ve been through and finally feel free and safe from harm here.

You can do so by sharing the following post on Twitter and tagging Boris Johnson and Priti Patel (or share the blog with friends and colleagues!):

Sending LGBTQI+ people to Rwanda is not safe. If you care about the LGBTQI+ community, on #IDAHOBIT2022 I ask you, @BorisJohnson @pritipatel, to ditch this deal with Rwanda immediately and to treat LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK with compassion and dignity. 

“Education and information are the greatest weapons we have to fight and eradicate ignorance, prejudice, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and absences of laws that are ending with the lives of human beings who only want to live in total freedom and with their own identity.”

Sasha, from Guatemala


Government expected to send LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum to Rwanda despite the evidence it has found of abuse

This government has now confirmed it will send LGBTQI+ people who come to the UK seeking safety to Rwanda to process their asylum claims, despite the evidence it has found of ill treatment.

In the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) for the policy published last night, the government accepts that trans women can face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, yet merely says that their relocation to Rwanda must be considered on a case by case basis.

In relation to sexual orientation, the EIA states that “investigations point to ill treatment being more than one off, but it does not appear to be systemic” and mentions that it will monitor the abuse of LGBTQI+ people in order to manage the risk.

Rainbow Migration’s Legal and Policy Director, Sonia Lenegan, stated that “the EIA accepts that LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda are subject to abuse, yet the government intends to send them there regardless”, and added that “this government should clarify as a matter of urgency the precise level of mistreatment of LGBTQI+ people that they find to be acceptable”.

 

Arrest, prosecution and detention of LGBTQI+ people

In the document setting out the country information on general human rights, there are pages of examples of the arrest, prosecution and detention of LGBTQI+ people. This evidence is dismissed on the basis of an interview with an organisation that by its own admission “doesn’t know about the difference in treatment of different LGBT+ groups” and denies the mistreatment and harassment of LGBTQI+ people, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

“It is notable that while other organisations that were interviewed by the UK government are named in the published interview notes, the “representatives of the LGBT+ community” that met with the Home Office on 5 April 2022 are not named, presumably for their own safety”, said Sonia Lenegan.

 

No evidence of deterrence

The EIA also states that they “do not consider relocation to Rwanda to be a penalty”, to which Sonia Lenegan said, “it is difficult to understand how the government squares that position with their assertion that the policy will act as a disincentive to small boat crossings, as this government has made clear is its intention”.

Despite the government pointing to Australia in the EIA as evidence that the policy will deter people arriving in the UK in small boats, the evidence relied on has been debunked several times.

 

Sending LGBTQI+ people into what is known to be a dangerous situation, with the promise only to “monitor” whether or not they are abused, is completely insufficient. The evidence published by this government makes it clearer than ever that it is unsafe to send LGBTQI+ people to Rwanda.

We are asking Priti Patel and Boris Johnson to ditch this deal with Rwanda immediately and to treat LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK with compassion and dignity.


rainbow flag and black hands

Don't send LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum to Rwanda

Rwanda is a dangerous place to be LGBTQI+, but the UK government plans to send people seeking asylum there.

The government has announced that it intends to send people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed there. This is extremely concerning for LGBTQI+ people seeking safety, as Rwanda is a dangerous place to be LGBTQI+.

Although same sex relations are not outlawed, there are no specific laws protecting LGBTQI+ people from discrimination and abuse. Rights like same-sex marriage or adoption and gender recognition for trans people do not exist. And there is widespread evidence of LGBTQI+ people being harassed, detained and beaten by security officials.

The UK Foreign Office’s own advice for tourists to Rwanda warns of “discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities”. And the situation for LGBTQI+ people there is so dire that Rainbow Migration has supported LGBTQI+ people from Rwanda seeking asylum here.

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.

Sign the petition now to call on Priti Patel and Boris Johnson to abandon this shameful policy before it’s too late and to instead create a compassionate, caring asylum system.

rainbow flag and black hands

Government proposals to offshore asylum claims to Rwanda will be particularly harmful to LGBTQI+ people

Proposals to offshore asylum claims to Rwanda will be harmful to LGBTQI+ people

The government is expected to announce on Thursday that they intend to send people who are seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda and have their asylum claims processed there. A similar agreement with Israel resulted in most people who were transferred to Rwanda leaving, some subsequently making the dangerous journey to Europe. During that journey, people were trafficked and sold 

Last year, when Denmark passed a law providing for the offshore processing of asylum claims, outside the European Union, this was condemned by the African Union as “responsibility and burden shifting”. Despite this, this government has sought to introduce similar provisions in the Nationality and Border Bill.  

The agreement means that LGBTQI+ people who have fled life-threatening situations in their home countries, and sought safety and protection from the UK, will instead be sent to a country where it is not safe for LGBTQI+ people to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

There is widespread evidence of ill-treatment and abuse faced by LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda. For instance, Human Rights Watch reported last year that:  

Rwandan authorities rounded up and arbitrarily detained over a dozen gay and transgender people, sex workers, street children, and others in the months before a planned June 2021 high-profile international conference.”  

People interviewed who identified as gay or transgender said that security officials accused them of “not representing Rwandan values.” They said that other detainees beat them because of their clothes and identity. Three other detainees, who were held in the “delinquents’” room at Gikondo, confirmed that fellow detainees and guards more frequently and violently beat people they knew were gay or transgender than others.”  

The situation for LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda is so poor that it is a source country for people seeking asylum in the UK based on their sexual orientation, albeit in low numbers, and Rainbow Migration has previously provided support to LGBTQI+ people from Rwanda. 

Rainbow Migration has been warning for months of the risk that the Nationality and Borders Bill creates for LGBTQI+ people in particular. In relation to offshoring, the government has said that even where they consider a country to be safe, they will take specific vulnerabilities into consideration. In theory, this could act as a safeguard against LGBTQI+ people being placed into an offshoring process, however a person’s sexual orientation is already frequently and incorrectly disputed, and the Nationality and Borders Bill will make it even more difficult for a person to “prove” that they are, for example, gay.  

In this context, and from our experience, we expect to see that where LGBTQI+ people do try to resist their removal to Rwanda, this government is likely to dispute that they are LGBTQI+ and will remove them anyway. We do not consider that there are adequate safeguards that can be put in place to prevent this, and we have not heard any proposals on how this government will avoid the harm that the agreement will cause to LGBTQI+ people. These proposals are actively harmful and an abdication of the UK’s responsibilities under the Refugee Convention, and they should be abandoned.  

Write to your MP.

Government proposals to offshore asylum claims to Rwanda will be particularly harmful to LGBTQI+ people

Take part in our new survey!

We are carrying out research via survey monkey into how we can improve our communications messages.  Our aim is to talk clearly about the particular barriers and discrimination LGBTQI+ people who are seeking asylum and who have refugee status face, and how our solutions might inspire people to support our work.  Additionally, we would love to understand a little bit more about our audiences and supporters.

We really value your feedback and any ideas you would like to share, completing the survey will only take 5 to 10 minutes. Please be open and frank in your responses. All your answers are anonymous and confidential.

The survey will be open until 21 April at 5 pm.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your views.

Keep an eye on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as we will be sharing updates on this research very soon!

rainbow migration survey

Statement: We stand in solidarity with the trans community

We stand in solidarity with the trans community and join Stonewall, LGBT Consortium and others in withdrawing all support for this Summer’s UK Government-led Safe To Be Me conference. 

At Rainbow Migration we welcome and strive to provide a safe space for everyone who is claiming asylum based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics. 

Many of our trans service users have fled violence in their countries of origin and we believe they should be treated with kindness and compassion by the UK, not fear that their rights to be themselves may be denied.   

If this Government is truly committed to ensuring the protection of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum it must ensure that trans people are protected from the harms caused by conversion practices.


How to support LGBTQI+ Ukrainians

We are deeply concerned by the situation in Ukraine and have joined other UK charities in urging the Government to protect those fleeing any violence in the region.

At the moment, we are actively campaigning against the Nationality and Borders Bill which, if passed in its current form, will be harmful to LGBTQI+ Ukrainians and anyone fleeing life-threatening countries seeking safety here.

We are also working with partner LGBTQI+ organisations here in the UK, signposting LGBTQI+ Ukrainians to trusted LGBTQI+ support services.

Here is a list of ways in which you can help LGBTQI+ Ukrainians: