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Questions to a bisexual asylum seeker in detention


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The following questions are transcribed from the interviewer’s written record of an interview with a detained asylum seeker who stated he was bisexual. The interview took place in October 2013, beginning at 10.25am and ending at 4pm. There was a one hour break for lunch. No lawyer was present at any point.

Not all of the questions asked are included below. There were over 220 questions in total.

Can you explain to me in detail what you mean by bisexual?

Can you explain to me what you mean by man to man?

Please explain?

What do you mean by “something”?

What does that mean to you?

How many boyfriends did you have in [country]?

What was the name of your friend?

What is his date of birth?

Do you know his date of birth?

How did you meet him?

Does he have any brothers or sisters?

What is her name?

How old were you when you discovered you had an attraction for boys?

What about before you were 18?


Can you explain how you realised your sexuality?

What happened?

Tell me what you did?

What did you do with x?

Did you do anything other than kissing x?

What did you do?

Where did this happen?

How often did you have intercourse together?

Is that every day?

Did you put your penis into x’s backside?

When x was penetrating you did you have an erection?

Did you ejaculate?

Did x ejaculate inside you?

Why did you use a condom?

How did you feel when having sex?

Did you have feelings for other boys?

Did you have physical relationships with other boys in [city]?

Did you love x?

When was his birthday?

Did you buy him presents?

Did he buy you presents?

How could you afford to buy him presents if you were studying?

In [city] did you have sex with other men?

What do you find attractive about men?

Tell me what you like about men that turns you on?

What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?

What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?

How did you get found out?

In [country] how many relationships have you had with women?

How did you meet y?

What did you find attractive about y?

On the night you met her what attracted you to her?

Did you have a sexual relationship with her?

How often did you see y?

How were your feelings for her different to x?

Were you and x lovers at this time?

Did you tell x about your affair with y?


What was x’s response when you told him about y?

Did you tell y about x as well?

Why not?

What do you like about women?

How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?

How does that display you are bisexual?

Where do you go when going out?

Which pub do you go to?

What is your religion?

What does the church say about homosexuality?

What is your view of same sex marriages?

What do you think of men marrying men?

Why do you think it is a good thing?

Would you marry a man?

Why have you got to behave as a bisexual in [country]?

That was with x only and he initiated the contact you claim. Why can’t you return and live a full life there?

The interview ultimately tells us a lot more about the interviewer and the UK asylum process than the interviewee. And what we find out is… unpleasant.

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


31 Responses

  1. is it indeed really tough n some of the questions doesnt make sense, it seems like the interviewer are over using their power

    1. A lawyer can object if present but can be thrown out of the Home Office doesn’t like it. My suspicion is that this sort of abuse of power would not occur if a lawyer had been sitting there observing simply because the interviewer would have ben more restrained.

  2. detention shall be closed down, every single person escape tough times in their life, detention is just another tough indeed really tough time

  3. I was under the impression that Wilsons had given some training to UKBA staff for these kind of cases. I wonder what they think of this line of questioning? If a hetero sexual were asked to answer questions about what attracted them to a certain person – would they be able to explain in these terms? And as for the level of detail about intimate matters….. I agree that this exchange is more revealing of the state of mind of the interviewer than anything else. I don’t really understand why UKBA can’t have some properly trained experts for LGBT cases – ideally from the LGBT community so that they are at ease with the issues and possibly able to give reassurance to the person interviewed. There should obviously be guidelines about the type of questions it is acceptable to ask.

  4. to many detainees actually n 2 many immigrants, no one know what 2 do, so fast tracked asylum seekers, ask them crazy questions and then refused their case, all the rights to appeal will then been exhausted, makes them feel as if they are the most dangerous criminal and finally send them back home to face another abuse in their life.

    why does people from eu country can actually live and work in the uk? have they got problems in their home country? uk is too messed because of all the gypsies on the street who actually got loads of properties in their country, but they can work cheaper than illegal immigrants, obviously their skills are more “needed” in the uk.

    where is justice?????????????

  5. UKBA have a new way to turn people vulnerable and take advantage of it. the first time they call to enregister you afther finish if you need a support without knowing how,they will give you the number of volunteering return pretenting that number is to get you a help to have a accomodation and other….

  6. really good in lyin, they are experts, not forget to mention that they ignored peoples application and pretend dat they didnt received anything from the solicitors omg, jesus bless us so called criminals

  7. That is a disgracefull line of questioning. What possible relevance could such intrusive & personal questions about someone’s sexuality have, regarding their immigration status? The only possible motive is that it is providing some kind of gratification, or amusement to the individual/s conducting the interview.

    Vulnerable people (just being held in a foreign country where they are unfamiliar with the laws, or their rights makes them vulnerable) should not be allowed to be interviewed or questioned, without having some form of representation present to advise them of their rights.

  8. I hate to say this but the other extreme is also as bad – as when the person reveals their sexual identity and then it is downplayed by the interviewer who does not ask many questions at all – but later the applicant will be criticised for not having given enough detail about the fact they are LGBT.

    1. You’re exactly right, Jackie. Both approaches illustrate the approach of the Home office to an asylum interview. It SHOULD be to find out the facts and make a fair decision on the claim, but HO officers see an interview as an exercise to find reasons to refuse. If the applicant is demonstrably telling the truth about their sexuality, the interviewer will drop that line of questioning, refuse on other grounds and then say ‘why didn’t you say that at your interview’ when the applicant brings it up at appeal stage. If they think they can cast any doubt, they will ask and and every thing they can imagine in order to find something to trip the person up or confuse them.

    2. Yes. One of my clients faced the softly, softly approach (probably because I was in the room) and was rejected. His friend (same nationality) got the full on explicit approach and was granted. When we went to appeal we won on sexuality but lost on the country evidence-which point the HO had conceded in their decision- which suggests the HO were altogether too concerned about whether my client was gay and not enough concerned about the rest of the case.

  9. I know that a good solicitor will at that point take up the issues about the asylum interview and will make sure to take a full history – if necessary 2O pages long – about how the person realised and experienced his sexual identity – trying in that way to set the record straight. But the chances of this being done during a DFT situation are remote and there is also the problem that not everyone knows that this could and should be done.

  10. I question whether university-leavers in their early twenties, boys with floppy hair and girls giggling in the corridors, a combination of people with no life or work experience, little training and few skills should be HO “interviewing officers” and then be the ones to make decisions about people lives, whether they will indeed be killed or persecuted on their return to their country of origin. The above is an accurate description of HO staff on DFT I see it all the time.

    1. I well remember the chill that was struck in me when I first heard about their plan to employ all these young and inexperienced ‘caseowners’. I think it was presented as a way to speed up the process but it was clear that in fact it was a way of making extra sure that cases were messed up and could then take years to go through appeals, fresh claims etc – thus reducing the immigration figures, which was the real agenda. It was also a way to ensure the process was broken up into compartments so that no individual had to face up to the reality of (or was able to take responsibility for) what was happening.

  11. thank you Colin for posting an extract of this horrible interview notes, but this is just a an example of regular misconducts of immigration officers in dealing with asylum and detention cases..the problems is that such practice usually is unsanctioned and probably unnoticed by anyone..

  12. Can we have a source for this please? I can’t see it referenced anywhere else; I’m surprised that it hasn’t been picked up by The Guardian or similar.

    1. The questions are from an interview record I have in my possession. For reasons of client confidentiality I can’t share the full contents of the interview.

  13. I am dealing with one, and the hearing is tomorrow. This is what the HO asked him; “are you a christian? yes, Do you go to church? yes, Do you read the Bible? Yes, What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?” I plan to tell the Judge that the HO just wanted to make the appellant less Christian because of his sexuality, just like their home government! The rest of the other questions are all just embarrassing! It is a shame, I think the UKBA needs to tell these young boys and girls what questions they MUST not ask asylum seekers!!

  14. Of course, the inappropriate questioning isn’t just found amongst Home Office interviewers. Sitting in on asylum appeals last year for a project based at the University of Exeter (http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/asylumappeals/), I quite frequently heard Home Office Presenting Officers and Immigration Judges stray into what felt like intrusive and unproductive questioning of gay asylum seekers. The worst involved a detained fast track asylum appeal. The Immigration Judge directly questioned the appellant throughout the hearing, including demanding details of the sexual acts depicted in magazines he’d read as a teenager, pushing him to give increasingly graphic information, including exactly what acts he’d seen depicted, where on the body they occurred, whether they involved genitals, etc. There was this heavy air of voyeurism mixed with disapproval. She sneered down at the appellant throughout the entire hearing, frowning deeply and scrunching up her nose almost in disgust. At one point, when being questioned in great detail about the sexual acts he had performed on his boyfriend she boomed down at him ‘Did you have your trousers on? DID YOU HAVE YOUR TROUSERS ON?!’

    1. Thanks for your comment, Melanie, even though it does make me feel a bit sick reading it. There is quite a short list of names I can think of that would have been that judge. I’ve been holding off publishing something on making complaints about judges but that is enough to push me into it.

      Sorry we didn’t catch up at Field House the other day.

    2. I deeply regret not making a complaint against this individual. Quite asides from her questioning of his sexuality (which included shouting at the witness ‘DID YOU HAVE PENETRATIVE SEX?!’ when she felt his description of their relationship as ‘intimate’ was evasive), the judge’s behaviour throughout the hearing was horrifically unfair, rude, cruel and quite arguably racist. These aren’t words I use lightly. And to make matters worse, the guy not only was represented but his barrister joined in the group bullying.

      I think information about making complaints should be made much more available in hearing centres, although in truth, I can’t imagine that there are many people in the detained fast track that would have the time, energy or inclination to complain, especially after being so thoroughly ridiculed.

  15. I too am interested to know who the judge was as it sounds like one who shocked me in like manner. The one I am thinking of received so many complaints against her – mostly from barristers -at another tribunal – that she had to be moved – and then resurfaced as a DFT judge, where there is probably less often an audience to hear the awful remarks such as the one I heard in the case of someone who had suffered brutal treatment at the hands of the police in his country, and whose wife had been killed.. She quipped – ‘My little boys like to fight eachother and they get various wounds, but I would not call it torture.’…The man now has refugee status but only because his case was eventually heard by a different judge.