Peter Tatchell: Stop deportation of gay asylum seekers

The UK government continues to break its pledge to protect asylum seekers by deporting gay asylum seekers to unsafe countries, Peter Tatchell, Director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation has said.

Mr. Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation wonders how gay asylum seekers are supposed to prove their sexual orientation

“Deportations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers are continuing; despite government pledges to ensure fairer treatment,” Mr. Tatchell said.

He asked the government to stop removal of “traumatised refugees who have fled homophobic intimidation and violence” to countries where they risk “discrimination, harassment, assault, arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder.”

Deportations of such people “violate David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s commitment to a fairer deal for LGBT refugees fleeing homophobic and transphobic persecution,” Mr. Tatchell said.
 
“We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation,” the coalition government pledged.

In 2010, Mr. Cameron personally promised: “Those Africans seeking asylum on the basis of sexual orientation and at real risk of persecution in their home countries should be allowed to stay in the UK.”

Mr. Tatchell added: “In an apparent bid to reduce asylum numbers, the Home Office is sometimes resorting to the despicable tactic of refusing to believe that refugees are gay, even when they provide evidence of same-sex relationships and witness statements from their current or former partners. If this evidence is not good enough, how are refugees supposed to prove their sexual orientation? It is an impossible task. The UK Border Agency seems to be making it deliberately impossible; presumably in order to boost the numbers being deported to satisfy the anti-asylum lobby. This is shocking and shameful.”

He accused the government of not doing enough to stop this injustice against gay asylum seekers. “Ministers are doing little or nothing to stop this on-going unfair treatment of LGBT refugees. The UK is not honouring its obligations under the Refugee Convention,” Mr. Tatchell said.

He said he has been working with a Malawian lesbian refugee, Esther C who was scheduled for deportation twice, despite seeking a judicial review of the decision to refuse her asylum. “What kind of justice system attempts to deport people before their cases are heard? Esther has now won a last minute reprieve but this was only due to a determined campaign to save her from deportation,” Mr. Tatchell said.

He gave another example of Alice N, an asylum seeker whose claim was dismissed on 16th October 2012 “on the grounds she and her female partner had not done enough to prove her lesbianism.”

Alice was “deported to Cameroon, despite the well-known anti-gay witch-hunt that is happening in that country,” Mr. Tatchell said.

Almost three weeks ago, “a masculine gay Nigerian man, Olalekan M Ayelokun (Ola), who provided testimonies of his homosexuality from male sexual partners, was deported after a judge refused to believe he was gay. What else is he supposed to do to prove his homosexuality?” queried Mr. Tatchell.

Rakshita Patel, Asylum Casework Officer with the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: “We are helping many genuine LGBT refugees who tell heart-breaking stories of discrimination and violence in their home countries. These are very vulnerable people who have suffered greatly. They’ve shown great courage, given their persecution in their countries of origin and their subsequent mistreatment here in Britain.

“These people have come to the UK expecting a safe haven, only to be thrown into a detention centre and treated like a common criminal. When they protest against the appalling way they are treated, they can face punitive action and be subjected to fast-track deportation.”

Ms. Patel noted that many LGBT asylum applicants have poor legal representation. “The legal aid system does not provide solicitors with sufficient funds to prepare a proper case. Some are listed for deportation before their appeals or judicial reviews are heard. The asylum system is failing them. They are not being given a fair hearing.”

Ms. Patel appealed to the coalition government “to reform the asylum system to end the deportation of LGBT people who have a sincere, well-founded fear of persecution.”