National Refugee Week runs from the 20th -26th June, and so we are taking this time to talk about LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.
LGBTQ refugees often face double marginalisation and challenges, by virtue of their refugee or asylum seeker status, and also due to their LGBTQ identity.
As LGBTQ people and communities, we know that sexual orientation and gender identity do not fit neatly into boxes and do not have checklists of attributes which can be assessed and judged. Each LGBTQ person is unique and does not have the same experiences or interests. However, a watchdog found that a tenth of Home Office interviews included intrusive questions about sexual practices and include questions based on outdated stereotypes of LGBTQ people.
Shamefully, there are still reports of LGBTQ asylum seekers being asked to provide humiliating graphic photographic evidence of same-sex sexual activity, in order to prove their identity.
The UK Gay and Lesbian Immigration Group highlighted the huge challenges that Trans asylum seekers face in ‘proving’ their gender identity. Trans asylum seekers are also often placed in inappropriate single-sex shared accommodation or detention centres where they are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
So what can we do?
We know that people who have faced discrimination or persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in their home countries may be reluctant to come out to workers, volunteers or supporters-they may also find it difficult to reach out to LGBTQ support services. That means support services have to work harder to ensure that LGBTQ services are inclusive, and that LGBTQ people’s need are met in any service that they access, not just LGBTQ-specific services.
Sadly, racism and prejudice exists in LGBT communities. Refugees and asylum seekers, who reach out to others on the LGBTQ scene, may find discrimination in a place they were hoping to find acceptance. We need to continue to address these issues within LGBT communities.
We are lucky in Brighton to have groups doing amazing work with refugees and asylum seekers- if you have time of resources, please do consider volunteering.
If you would like to find out how you can get involved, Sanctuary on Sea have put together a directory of local and national organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers.
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants are a Brighton group of LGSMigrants – queer people standing in solidarity with migrants to provide practical support and take creative action for change.
UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group is a charity that works with LGBTQI people seeking asylum in the UK.
LGBT Service Brighton & Hove Leaflets: Please click here for LGBT service information in Arabic, French, Bengali, Turkish and Cantonese.
Refugees Week Resources: Please click here to download resources including posters, stickers and banners to show your support for refugees and asylum seekers.