UK Gay Group: ‘Institutional Homophobia In Britain’s Asylum System’

The British gay rights group Stonewall has published an extensive study wherein they report that almost all gay men and women who seek asylum in the United Kingdom are returned to their home countries, even those who will most likely face incredibly harsh punishment, including death, due to their sexual orientation.

According to The Independent, the report highlights some unbelievable ignorance and homophobia:

The report, No Going Back, found that between 2005 and 2009 almost all cases involving people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation were refused by the Home Office. During the same period the general refusal rate for asylum-seekers in the UK was 76.5 per cent.

No going back

The report quotes one UKBA staff member admitting: "Someone from Jamaica claiming they're gay will just automatically be disbelieved." Another said "Colleagues have said that they don't know what questions to ask; we feel rude prying and embarrassed about asking these questions."

Many cases are turned down simply on the basis that someone fleeing a country where homosexuality is punishable by death or hard labour could simply "live discreetly" – in other words, go into hiding. UKBA staff admitted this was discriminatory.

UKBA staff also showed a lack of understanding and training, the report says. One case worker asked an asylum-seeker: "Why do you choose to be homosexual when you know it is illegal in your own country?"

Included in the report are several disconcerting quotes from asylum seekers:

"We’re beaten every day, chopped up, mugged, persecuted, abused. As long as you’re recognised, you’re victimised. Every day in fear. Tomorrow you might die” – Harrison, Jamaican asylum seeker

“My mother said, ‘I wish you die of AIDS. Homosexuals die of AIDS. It was a mistake I had you as a child’ ” – Johnson, Ugandan asylum seeker

You can read the entire report on Stonewall's Website.


  1. says

    The Independent’s story isn’t accurate. The 98% figure they quote is of first refusals in a study of 50 refusal letters, many then go on to win their cases through struggle and after many years. But ‘almost all gay men and women who seek asylum in the United Kingdom are returned to their home countries,’ is wrong.

    This is the piece of research the Stonewall report is part based on

  2. Dickster says

    Canada’s Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) has also denied queer refugees asylum as ‘you don’t look gay’ (presumably don’t swish and lisp) so just shut-up about being gay and you’ll be fine. In another case board members said ‘you don’t have photos or other documentation showing yourself & your boyfriend’ – not surprising considering the applicant was from a country where homosexuality was punishable by death!

    These cases really speak to the ignorance of officials about gay life and the stress of living in the closet in a hostile nation.

    That such discrimination still occurs in queer positive countries such as Canada and the UK shows that despite legal equality, there remains a need to educate around institutionalized homophobia & hetero-sexism.

    Fortunately the courts can review the decisions of these quasi-judicial bodies to ensure discrimination is curtailed and proper precedent is set.

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