The United Kingdom is demanding that people seeking asylum from prosecution in other countries due to their sexual preferences provide evidence of their homosexuality. Some people have resorted to handing over videos and photos of intimate sexual encounters in order to assure government officials processing their case that they are indeed gay. While tens of thousands of applications for asylum remain unresolved, some people are spending as many as 16 years in “appalling” housing provided to them while their cases are waiting to be decided, according to the country’s Home Affairs Committee, which is reviewing the U.K. Border Agency’s decisions. Regarding members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community applying, the BBC reports:

In its report, the committee said [LGBTI people] faced “extraordinary obstacles” in persuading immigration officers of their case.

Its chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, told BBC News: “It is absurd for a judge or a caseworker to have to ask an individual to prove that they are lesbian or gay, to ask them what kind of films they watch, what kind of material they read.

“People should accept the statement of sexuality by those who seek asylum. This practice is regrettable and ought to be stopped immediately.”

A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 stated that the “underlying rationale” of the United Nations Refugee Convention was that people should be able to “live freely and openly” in their own country without fear of persecution.

This judgement, the committee said, had effectively overturned the Border Agency’s previous emphasis on “voluntary discretion” – which had meant it should be seen an option for claimants to conceal their sexuality in order to avoid abuse.

The report said: “The battleground is now firmly centred in ‘proving’ that they are gay. In turn, this has led to claimants going to extreme lengths to try and meet the new demands of credibility assessment in this area, including the submission of photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, presenting officers and the judiciary.”

The committee said: “We were concerned to hear that the decision making process for LGBTI applicants relies so heavily on anecdotal evidence and ‘proving that they are gay’.”

It added that “it is not appropriate to force people to prove their sexuality if there is a perception that they are gay. The assessment of credibility is an area of weakness within the British asylum system.

“Furthermore, the fact that credibility issues disproportionately affect the most vulnerable applicants – victims of domestic and sexual violence, victims of torture and persecution because of their sexuality – makes improvement all the more necessary.”

The Refugee Council said the committee’s report reflected its “grave concerns” about the UK asylum system.

Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “Failing to treat asylum seekers with dignity and, simultaneously, failing to deal effectively and fairly with their claims has created an expensive and counter-productive bureaucratic nightmare that all too often denies vulnerable people the protection from persecution and oppression they desperately need.”

Stonewall, a gay rights group, points out the absurdity of the Border Agency’s line of questioning, stating, “Being gay isn’t about what nightclubs you go to; it is a fundamental part of who you are.” The group also reminds the public that many LGBTI people have suffered abuse, rape, and other forms of torture in their countries, and forcing them to “prove” their sexuality is a waste of “valuable time.” One would add, it is also cruel and unusual to make victims of persecution jump through hoops to get to safety.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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