Monday, February 10, 2014

British Immigration Service in hot water over degrading LGBT questionnaire

By Brody Levesque | LONDON -- A confidential government internal report leaked to the British press last week, detailed that a series of degrading and highly personal sexual questions were posed to LGBTQ people seeking political asylum in the UK, despite clear policies from the Home Office that those types of questions were unacceptable.
The report disclosed that one person was asked questions including: "Did you put your penis into x's backside?" and "When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection? Did x ejaculate inside you. Why did you use a condom?"
It also revealed that during that during five hours of questioning in a UK Immigration Detention Centre, an asylum seeker was asked, "What is it about men's backsides that attracts you?" and "What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?" 
A ranking British official Monday told LGBTQ Nation that the questionnaire, which was created by an unnamed Home Office employee last October,  was in direct contravention of established Home Office policies and regulatory guidelines. He admitted that reform of the present system was still ongoing and also unnecessarily exposed LGBTQ asylum seekers to 'humiliation,' but he claimed that the questions which the critics and the press labeled an "interrogation," were no longer being used. 
However, he acknowledged that efforts to determine person's sexual orientation were still conducted "as sensitively as possible." 
Last Fall the UK 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 adding “People should accept the statement of sexuality by those who seek asylum. This practice is regrettable and ought to be stopped immediately.”
His committee had issued a report noting:
“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’.” 
The report went on to say 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.”
LGBTQ equality rights advocacy group Stonewall UK spokesman Richard Lane said in a statement,
"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 maintain 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.
A Home Office spokesperson told LGBTQ Nation,
"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. All applicants are required to establish they face persecution, inhumane or degrading treatment in their home country to qualify for our protection."