Godfrey is a Ugandan immigrant who participated in GMI’s mentoring programme (http://www.gmipartnership.org.uk/pages/mentoring.html). In one of his first sessions he told his mentor how he came to the UK fleeing discrimination due to his sexuality in Uganda. He had previously had torture counselling to help him deal with the atrocities he’d been through and came to GMI to focus on the reasons for the unprotected sex he was having. Luckily Godfrey had a positive experience getting sexual health support through GMI and was extremely happy with the non-judgemental and understanding manner in which he was treated. For many LGBT asylum seekers and refugees this isn’t the case and they find it difficult to access the non-discriminatory support they require.
The eye-opening Over not out report completed by MBARC (http://www.mbarc.co.uk/) in 2009 , and recently refreshed in 2012 ( https://www.metropolitan.org.uk/images/Metropolitan-MF-LGBT-Over-Not-Out2012-final1.pdf ), showed that unfortunately many LGBT asylum seekers and refugees face ignorance and lack of understanding, and in some cases outright discrimination, when accessing support from immigration and LGBT organisations. Many participants had to deal with homo-/trans-/bi- phobia from refugee and asylum groups and a lack of empathy and awareness, and on occaions prejudice from LGBT organisations. The report mirrored other studies showing that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers are more likely to have poor physical and mental health and end up homeless than the refugee/asylum seeker community generally and often face physical, sexual and emotional abuse when held in asylum detention centres (for example – Sanctuary. Safety and Solidarity report: http://madikazemi.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/in-scotland-major-new-lgbt-asylum.html ). The over not our report concludes that in many ways LGBT refugees and asylum seekers are in ‘double jeopardy’ as they are excluded from support from within the LGBT community and from refugee/asylum groups leaving them excluded and in a vulnerable position.
- Approximately 30,000 LGBT asylum seekers have come to the UK in the last 10 years
- 2-3 trans people per month enter the UK as an asylum seeker/refugee
- There were approximately 1,500 LGB asylum seekers in 2008
- The Greenwich Declaration of Human Rights is an agenda of basic rights for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers put together by lawyers, academics, activists, refugees and health professionals.
Headline from The Sun following immigration changes
The good news – Things are changing
- As a result of the work above there is much better visibility of LGBT asylum seeker and refugee needs than in the past and better collaboration between LGBT and refugee/asylum groups.
- Current research is being conducted by MBARC to better understand how LGBT and refugee asylum seeker groups can best work together and provide support for LGBT refugees asylum seekers.
- The government recently agreed to consider sexual orientation when processing asylum claims.
- There are organisations out there that provide support for LGBT immigrants, including – UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (http://www.uklgig.org.uk/asylum.htm) and Immigration Equality (http://www.immigrationequality.org/)
What’s your opinion? Maybe you know somone who is an LGBT refugee/asylum seeker, maybe you fit into this group yourself. How can better collaboration between LGBT and refugee/asylum groups be fostered?
GMI Partnership provides free sexual health counselling, mentoring and sexual health support for gay and bisexual men and trans folk in London who are having unprotected sex and at risk of becoming HIV positive – http://www.gmipartnership.org.uk/