UKLGIG have released a vital new report in collaboration with Stonewall UK, entitled No Safe Refuge: Experiences of LGBT Asylum Seekers in Detention, which reveals how LGBT asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable and face significant disadvantages when held in immigration detention centres.
The report contains harrowing testimony that raises serious questions about Home Office screening of LGBT asylum seekers, the inappropriate use of solitary confinement of LGBT asylum seekers in detention, and their restricted access to quality legal advice.
The research, which looks at testimonies from 22 experts-by-experience, reveals that LGBT individuals in detention are likely to suffer discrimination and harassment from other detainees, and in some circumstances from members of staff. One respondent described an incident while being deported to Zimbabwe where an officer had suggested that wearing men’s clothing was not appropriate:
“At that moment I said to him: ‘Do you know that this actually shows how corrupt your system is? You’ve just met me and you know that you can’t take me where you’re trying to take me while I am who I am. You’re trying to change me so that I don’t have difficulties!” (Maiba)
The devastating impact of detention on LGBT asylum seekers’ physical and psychological health is a strong theme and many respondents said the experience actively encouraged flashbacks of the torture and persecution that forced them to the UK in the first place:
“This was bringing it all back again. I could see exactly how it happened in Uganda. The same thing was in detention. The guards at the detention centre never abused me but that was the only difference. It irritated me just looking at them and sometimes at night I could wake up with a panic attack. My heart is pounding and I am scared. I just think I am in that cell in Uganda again.” (Dembe)
UKLGIG are calling for the way that LGBT asylum seekers are treated in detention to be revisited. Crucially, UKLGIG Director Paul J Dillane, links the struggle for LGBT rights in detention with the need for an end to indefinite detention for all and the introduction of alternatives to detention – Detention Action’s two central campaign asks:
“The UK is a country that proudly seeks to promote human rights including those of LGBT people on the world stage yet it has for too long detained those who flee to our shores in search of sanctuary. In order to ensure LGBT refugees are respected and protected, the use of indefinite immigration detention must end.”