The Home Office has responded to claims made by Green MP Caroline Lucas and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has mishandled LGBT asylum cases in recent years.
Ms Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Mr Tatchell raised concerns about the conduct of UKBA officials following a PinkNews.co.uk interview with Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant on Tuesday.
Mr Bryant robustly defended the Home Office and UKBA from claims that LGBT asylum seekers have been deported back to countries such as Uganda where they are at risk of homophobic persecution.
However, Mr Bryant’s comments were met with dismay by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Contrary to what is claimed, the asylum system is still continuing to fail LGBT refugees,” Mr Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk. “It is rigged to reject as many asylum claimants as possible. Many are imprisoned in detention centres, despite being innocents who have committed no crime. Others are fast-tracked, which gives them no time to prepare a proper asylum application.”
Caroline Lucas was equally scathing of the Border Agency. “My efforts as an MP to follow up with the Foreign Office and other government agencies on individual cases of deportees potentially facing homophobic persecution have come up against a brick wall,” she said to PinkNews.co.uk.
“If we want to be sure that we are not condemning LGBT people who seek asylum on these shores to a tragic fate, the government should do far more to track deportees and provide guarantees of their safety – as well as doing everything possible to ensure that UKBA handles each case fairly, sensitively and with an open mind.”
The government has never released statistics from immigration tribunals on how many people each year apply for asylum claiming that they face persecution because of their sexuality.
In a short statement to PinkNews.co.uk, a Home Office spokesman said: ”We have changed our guidance to ensure that we do not remove individuals who have demonstrated a proven risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation.
“Our position remains clear – when someone needs our protection, they will be given it.”