Refugee's and Asylum Seekers

Our third article for History Month focuses on being LGBT+ and an Asylum Seeker or Refugee

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Why do LGBTQ+ people claim Asylum?

LGBTQ+ people still face prosecution in many parts of the world, with some people having to leave their home country in fear of prosecution. Which can come in many forms such as long-term imprisonment, torture, denial of housing or unemployment all being situations that LGBTQ+ people are likely to face in their home country. In such cases, they can apply for Asylum/Refugee Status.

The Stonewall Project website defines a well-founded fear of prosecution as an applicant proving they are likely to face serious harm in their home country (as we discussed in the first paragraph). However, prejudice or bigotry from people and communities by itself will not count as persecution on its own. Neither is the fact that an LGBTQ+ asylum seeker will be able to live a more open life in the UK. In addition to the above, refugee status is not automatically granted to an LGBTQ+ person if it is illegal to be LGBTQ+ or in a same-sex relationship in their home country, but the person may be eligible if the law is enforced and they are at serious risk.

 

The Asylum Process

Seeking Asylum is a tough and lengthy process which according to Home Office experts, should be started immediately when an applicant arrives in the UK. As there is a possibility that an application could be rejected as the Home Office might think that the applicant isn’t in need or Refugee Protection. Nevertheless, to register, applicants can call the Home Office if they are already in the UK. During the call they will be asked a series of simple questions about themselves and will be told where to send a letter for an appointment with the Asylum Screening Unit. The screening unit will do the following:

  • Photograph the applicant(s)
  • Take their fingerprints
  • Take part in an interview with the immigration officer who will confirm the applicant’s identity and where they are from.
  • Ask if the applicant needs help with housing

After the screening has taken place, the Home Office will review the case and whether it can be considered in the UK. The applicant is sent an Applicant Registration card if their case is considered in the UK as well as being sent a preliminary information questionnaire in some cases. However, if the case can’t be considered in the UK the applicant might be sent to another country which can consider the claim. This usually happens in cases where the applicant has travelled to the UK through a third safe country or has a connection to another country that they are likely to claim asylum in.

If the applicant’s case is unable to be considered by another country, then it will be considered in the UK by a caseworker. The caseworker is responsible for making a decision regarding the application and will explain the asylum process to the applicant.

After the screening comes the interview, where the applicant is interviewed alone (unless accompanied by an interpreter). In the interview the applicant can explain how they were persecuted in their home country and why they are afraid to go back, if any details are left out it may hurt their case. Lastly, all that is left is to get a decision from the Home Office. This can take up to 6 months and can take longer if the case is particularly complicated. An applicant will receive either a ‘Permission to stay’ decision or ‘No reason to stay’ decision.

 

Covid-19 Impact on Asylum and Asylum Seekers

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the process of seeking Asylum: COVID-19 has affected the process of seeking asylum in different ways, for example making an appointment before going to the asylum intake unit and quite a huge delay in Asylum decision making.  In addition, the Home Office paused face to face substantial asylum interviews on the 18th of March 2020, which means asylum interviews would take place across the UK in light of any lockdown conditions.
  • The impact of Covid-19 on asylum seekers: Asylum seekers go through distressing times in their lives due to the fear of getting refused by the Home Office, this has caused an increase in the Mental health, PTSD, and even Depression.  There is also the issue of Housing being overcrowded, several Asylum seekers have been in hotels without getting a proper home to feel safe and comfortable in.  Many refugees are also experiencing other issues due to the lockdown, such as no access to volunteer jobs, emotional stress, loneliness and bereavement of relatives and friends.
  • Government response: We have seen various response from the Parliament UK website where the Home Office has answered questions from the committee’s fourth report. Here’s a link for people that would like to know more about the response. (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmhaff/973/97302.htm)

 

Resources

There are a variety of sources for those seeking asylum or even just for those who want to find out where they can help.

  • Shelter Scotland – this is a charity that aims to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis and provides a variety of useful resources and information for those seeking asylum in the UK.
  • Stonewall Scotland – a charity that focuses on LGBT+ issues and support, which also provides information on why LGBT+ folk may seek asylum in other countries as well as resources to support LGBT+ asylum seekers.
  • Scottish Refugee Council – a charity that works along side asylum seekers and refugees to help them find protection and safety within Scotland which has a wide variety of sources on different aspects of asylum and how to help.  They have also released new guidance for LGBTI Asylum Seekers
  • British Red Cross – the Red Cross also provide a wide variety different resources and needs to asylum seekers and refugees which can be found through their website to find your local refugee service.
  • LGBT Unity Scotland – Is a Unity in the Community that works to provide practical support and solidarity for people in need in the community, especially asylum seekers.  You can find out more on their facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/UnityLgbtGroup/
 

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