A leading human rights lawyer has criticised the UK Border Agency for subjecting LGBT asylum seekers to “inhuman and degrading” pressure to “prove” their sexual or gender identity.

A barrister at No 5 Chambers, S Chelvan, gave a lecture on Tuesday urging for reform of Border Agency tests, claiming that gay people are put under pressure to “prove” their sexuality when they try to claim asylum in the UK.

There are currently 80 countries which criminalise consensual same-sex activity, with five of those imposing the death penalty as punishment.

In 2010 it was ruled that gay or bisexual asylum seekers fleeing those countries should be allowed to remain in the UK on the grounds that their sexuality would endanger them if returned.

In response, the Border Agency has been perceived to have gone to extreme lengths in finding ways for LGBT asylum seekers to prove their sexuality or gender identity, resorting to box-ticking questionnaires in some cases.

Mr Chelvan spoke at the Law Society’s 11th Annual Stonewall Lecture, calling for a reform of the way the Border Agency treats LGBT asylum applications.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mr Chelvan said that the levels of suspicion faced by asylum seekers were so high some even felt pressured to show border agency officials homemade sex tapes.

He said: “There is an embedded culture of disbelief. we say immediately ‘we don’t believe you, you go away and prove it.’ It’s a clear breach of human rights, it’s inhuman and degrading.

“No court would ask a claimant to provide a film”, he said. “But gay asylum seekers feel they have to go to these lengths.

“They go to desperate measures. It shows the system has broken down to push gay asylum seekers to have to go to such extremes.”

He spoke of one example which went to a high court: “In one case, we had an individual who had a gay friend of his who he met in a gay club in London, and they went to an underwear party. He described how they were attracted to each other, they both said they showed signs of that.

“But the UK Border Agency said any straight person could have gone to that club. But would a straight person have stripped down to his underwear? And the friend agreed they both got aroused at the sight of each other.

“We had to go to the high court, to the tribunal and have all his friends come to give evidence and describe such scenarios, in public. It should never have got to that stage.

“The immigration judge said to his star witness, ‘well, you personally haven’t had sex with him, so how do you know?'”

Mr Chelvan said, “Gay and lesbian asylum seekers come to the UK for protection, but a culture of disbelief sees some go to extreme lengths to prove their sexuality.

“They find themselves in an intolerable position. It is inhumane. It is wrong.”

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society, said: “We tend to think that, in terms of LGBT rights and protections, we’ve got it right. That in the UK, LGBT individuals have equal rights and are protected against discrimination.

“Yet there is a question whether these rights and protections apply to the most vulnerable individuals: asylum seekers who have fled to the UK because in their country of origin their situation is so dire, so desperate that they fear for their own safety.”

Last month student and LGBT activist Serigne Tacko Mbengue was asked to prove that he was gay to uphold his asylum claim.