By Melanie Nathan, October 28, 2014.
For years the United Kingdom has been turning down the asylum applications of gays and lesbians. Many, often on the verge of deportation, have launched appeals, causing much more work than necessary. Now a scathing report has been published about the backlog for asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. It is my opinion that if only the correct determination was made in the first place, these problems could be reduced.
Often, with power vested in one single official, in many cases that official makes an ignorant and baseless judgment – they either do not believe the person is gay or that there were discrepancies in the stories.
I personally have examined many of these cases over the years and have noticed a few common denominators:
- A failure by the official to understand the complexity of being LGBTI in a foreign country, where due to anti-gay climates and state sanctioned homophobic laws, gays and lesbians do not keep a record (evidence) of their so called “homosexual” activities;
- Language and cultural differences in communications, where statements made by asylum seekers may not make sense to officials or may be misinterpreted;
- Declines based on absolute ignorance of refusing officer with reasons that are petty, make no sense and in many cases plainly ridiculous;
- Either poor or no legal representation at all.
I have been contacted by attorneys, social workers and activists in the United Kingdom for many cases and usually only after a person has been denied asylum. I review the statements of the asylum seeker, the reports, the evidence and also the denials. I am usually able to write a report showing the mistakes made by the official in making the call to deny asylum. In every instance where I have done such a report, I have worked with activists on the ground in the United Kingdom, to ensure we obtain top notch legal representation, pro bono, if such has not already occurred. This is such a waste of resources for cases where asylum could have been granted in the first place, if only the official had some proper training, ditched his/her homophobia, and/or not procured ridiculous assumptions.
The truth of this is in the fact that in each instance of the cases where I have written a report, except for one case, we have successfully obtained a reversal of the decision, on appeal. In some instances we have been able to stop deportations literally as the person was boarding the plane.
The reason I am writing this here and at this time is to make one simple point in conjunction with this important article, “Asylum: 29,000 Cases Unresolved Since 2007” , by SKY NEWS, referenced below:
The point is that if the UK changed how it handled cases right from the outset, things may move quicker and more effectively. Each time an asylum seeker is denied, because of baseless and stupid reasoning, the system is further strained and taxed as the appeals process and all the work involved only adds an enormous amount of work to the system. If an educated, fair and proper determination was made at the outset, perhaps the system would be less taxed, in the big scheme of things. This is probably just one aspect toward solving these problems, but one that I believe is rooted in homophobia and ignorance.
“Asylum: 29,000 Cases Unresolved Since 2007”
Failings in the UK’s asylum system have led to an “extremely concerning” backlog of cases – with the Home Office accused of being in chaos over immigration.
Some 11,000 asylum seekers have been waiting since 2007 to be told whether they can stay in the country.
In total there are 29,000 cases waiting to be resolved, according to a damning report.
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “To make matters worse, the department is also failing to meet its targets for dealing with newer claims, so it is now creating another backlog for itself.
“The number of claims awaiting an initial decision was up 70% to 16,273 in the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.
“It is deeply worrying that the Home Office is not tracking those people whose applications have been rejected to ensure that they are removed from the UK.”
The report said there are 175,000 people whose applications to stay in the UK have been rejected and are still awaiting removal.
The Government scrapped the UK Border Agency last year as part of major reforms……..
One asylum seeker has told Sky News she feels mentally “tortured” after being left in limbo.
Her case has been repeatedly delayed and nine months after applying for asylum the Ugandan woman still has not been given a proper interview about her request.
Fearing further delays to her claim, she asked only to be known as “Namusoke” and explained to Sky News: “I feel tortured here in the UK, I feel depressed, stressed and traumatised, so I really feel bad because I can’t help nothing for myself.
“I’m a beggar, which I was not born to do.”
The woman is fleeing persecution in her homeland due to the fact she is a lesbian – homosexuality is deemed illegal in Uganda.
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “The immigration system we inherited was totally dysfunctional.
“Turning around years of mismanagement has taken time, but it is now well under way.
“We have reformed visa routes to make them more resistant to fraud and cancelled failing contracts; and we are addressing the backlogs we inherited.” READ MORE
The person referred to as Namusoke in this case is one of many who is treated in this horrendous fashion and put through an enormous amount of often impossible hardship to prove her case. LGBTI people from Africa and all asylum seekers should not be further traumatized when seeking refuge from obviously very difficult circumstances, but embraced and nurtured. Unfortunately the ill treatment and foolish assumptions does not only hurt the asylum seeker, but also the system at large.