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The Silent LGBT+ Refugee Crisis



It is currently illegal in 72 countries around the world to be gay. The punishment for being caught in a same-sex relationship varies from fines to public canings, to life in prison or even death. The UN Geneva Conventionstates explicitly that those seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation or gender identity have grounds for refugee status. A 2011 EU Directive further states that sexual orientation is one of only a handful of categories (including religion, race, and nationality) for which asylum seekers can claim persecution.

 

Yet, in the UK (and much of the Western world), LGBT+ asylum seekers are being turned away, often after humiliating and degrading “gay tests”.

 

Rosemary, a lesbian who fled Nigeria to the UK, is under threat of being deported back home after spending four months in  Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Despite being a leader and active member of Leicester’s LGBT community, the UK government is questioning why she would marry a man and have children in her home country if she were truly a lesbian.

 

“I come from a culture where you have to get married: my mother threatened to kill herself if I didn’t,” she said


“My neighbours will put a tyre around my neck and set it on fire.”

If she goes back to Nigeria she will be punished by law for having a same-sex relationship and face vigilante violence.

 

“My neighbours will put a tyre around my neck and set it on fire.”

 

Roseline, a 26-year-old who left Nigeria when she was 12, also faces deportationafter being arrested and imprisoned for false representation in an immigration case. She could be separated from her fiancée and sent to an anti-gay country she doesn’t even know.

 

“As an immigration lawyer, some of the most heart-wrenching cases I have dealt with have been those involving LGBTQI+ applicants,” said Gary McIndoe.

 

“Contrary to the rhetoric put forward by some of our more right-wing media, the UK is not full of people pretending to be gay in order to successfully obtain refugee status.

 

“In reality, it is extremely difficult to obtain protection through the asylum process, and for the LGBTQI+ individual applying on the basis of their sexual or gender status, the journey can be extremely traumatic, invasive and long-winded, with no guarantee of success.”