Leicester Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre has been supporting LGBT people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland since the 1980s. Among those we support are a small number of asylum seekers who have fled their home country to escape persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In April the Home Office returned one of them to Afghanistan because they did not believe he was gay. He was 19 years old and had arrived in the UK when he was 15. We have not heard from him since he left the UK and we remain concerned about his safety. The removal of LGBT asylum seekers is a hugely controversial subject for the Home Office, so much so that the Home Secretary has asked the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to investigate the way in which the Home Office handles asylum applications from LGBT claimants. Reports by the Home Office Select Committee and by the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group show that Home Office caseworkers continue to ask inappropriate questions about sexual practices rather than focussing on sexual orientation, and that they are still making decisions based on stereotypes which have no relevance to the lived experiences of the claimants.
For International Day Against Homophobia we are looking at the way in which LGBT Asylum Seekers are treated by the Home Office and the judiciary and we would like your help to raise the profile of this important issue. We have already written to the Home Secretary expressing our concern that the Home Office has failed to challenge the institutional prejudice which informs decision making processes. We have similarly written to each MP in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and asked them to raise the matter with the Home Secretary. We would like you to do the same and so we would like you to visit the Centre on 16 May between 10:00 and 16:00 where we will offer you the facility to send an email to your MP and/or to the Home Secretary, but also to spend some time with us and learn a bit more about the lives of LGBT Asylum Seekers.
If you are able to drop in, one of the themes you will hear about is the way in which LGBT asylum seekers have become invisible. We do not even know how many LGBT people apply for asylum because the Home Office has refused to disclose the information, claiming it is not in the public interest to do so. So on 16 May we would like to encourage everyone who has an interest in the subject to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the Home Office asking them to publish the statistical information they hold because without transparency, how can we be sure that the system is fair?
If you can’t get to the Centre on 16 May, please don’t let that stop you from taking part in this campaign. We have published template letters to your MP and to the Home Secretary which can be accessed through the links below. You will need to cut and paste them into an email (or Word document if you are sending them by post). If you do not know who your MP is or no not have their contact details, you can find out and send them a message through the www.theyworkforyou.com website simply by entering your postcode.
The template Freedom of Information request, also available through the link below can be sent to the Home Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct Communications Unit 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF
As an alternative you may wish to use the http://www.whatdotheyknow.com website to submit your FOI request.