Caroline Allen, an MEP candidate for the Green Party in London, writes for PinkNews.co.uk on how the government has failed those fleeing homophobic and transphobic persecution.
London’s gay scene is a hub of diversity. Every night, in venues across London, people of all nationalities meet, socialise and even begin dating each other. It’s a testament to our city that London can provide safe and inclusive spaces for LGBT people. It’s even more important when London can provide something that many people lack in their home countries; safety and a space to be themselves.
Across the EU many countries have taken significant steps in LGBT equality, but too many are moving backwards. Croatia’s recent ban on marriage equality, joining Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, is a worrying step, as are multiple instances of violence at European Pride Marches last summer.
Although not perfect, the UK has always been at the forefront of LGBT rights in Europe, many LGBT people in the EU lack the right to marry, to adopt and to have their gender recognised. Anti-discrimination laws remain patchy, and not every country has comprehensive bans on discriminating against LGBT citizens. This is why EU’s open borders policy is so important. The freedom for EU citizens to escape prejudice if they face it is a crucial role of the EU. Equally the EU must do much more to ensure that member states are not actively discriminating and disenfranchising their LGBT citizens.
More widely the advancement of LGBT rights around the globe is far too slow. 78 countries have laws against being gay, seven even have the death penalty as punishment. When being LGBT can mean your life is in danger, other countries have a moral obligation to provide a safe haven. This is why it is so distressing to see clear cut instances of when the UK has failed.
The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group have highlighted that 98-99% of LGBT asylum seekers are initially rejected, yet 30% of cases are approved on appeal. Clearly the system is failing if so many individuals are eventually found to be genuine asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers have come forward to say that immigration officials have pushed them into “proving” they are gay. When immigration officials are asking people what clubs asylum seekers go to or what their favourite song is it is clear they don’t understand LGBT asylum seekers. In some instances claimants have felt forced into providing photographic evidence of their sexual behaviour, to prove their status. This is clearly intolerable.
My Green colleagues MP Caroline Lucas and Peter Tatchell have done much to highlight how our system of asylum is failing LGBT people. Yet both have commented on how the Home Office has been unresponsive to concerns and unwilling to change.
It is deeply concerning that so many politicians of varying hues feel they are in a race to see how harsh they can be on migration. This culture of appeasing anti-migration sentiment means we have an asylum system that is severe and unyielding. We must reject lazy pandering to myths around migration and asylum; and we must protect London’s status as a safe inclusive haven.
Caroline Allen is a vet and is an MEP candidate for the Green Party in London. She is also one of the Green Party spokespersons.