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British Immigration office criticized over ‘degrading’ LGBT questionnaire

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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LONDON — A confidential internal report by the British government, leaked to the British press last week, details a series of graphic questions posed to LGBT people seeking political asylum in the United Kingdom, including inquiries into a person’s sexual activity.

UK-immigrationThe report disclosed that one person – during five hours of questioning in a UK Immigration Detention Center – and another asylum seeker, were asked to provide intimate details regarding their sexual activity with other men, to describe sexual intercourse with their partners, and to describe the type of men and body parts they found attractive or sexually stimulating.

A ranking British official told LGBTQ Nation on Monday that the questionnaire, created by an unnamed government employee last October, was in direct contravention of established British government policies and regulatory guidelines, that unnecessarily exposed LGBT asylum seekers to “‘humiliation,” but claimed that the questions were no longer being used.

However, he acknowledged that efforts to determine person’s sexual orientation were still conducted “as sensitively as possible.”

On Monday evening, Liberal Democrat Baroness Barker called the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers by government caseworkers “shockingly degrading.”

Last Fall, the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman, Keith Vaz, told the BBC that LGBT asylum seekers were still being ordered to “prove” their sexuality, and he strongly criticised the practice.

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

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Richard Lane, a spokesman for LGBT advocacy group Stonewall UK, said “Valuable time and resources is spent attempting to ‘prove’ a claimant is gay rather than establishing whether they have a legitimate fear of persecution.”

Lane and other advocates said that the leaked report proves that there is almost “systemic homophobia” in the UK’s asylum system, which Lane argues could be “deeply distressing” to asylum seekers.

“The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we do not deport anyone at risk of persecution because of their sexuality,” a government spokesperson told LGBTQ Nation. “All applicants are required to establish they face persecution, inhumane or degrading treatment in their home country to qualify for our protection.”

But on Monday evening, Liberal Democrat Baroness Barker said it was the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers by government caseworkers that was “shockingly degrading.”

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