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Review of handling of gay asylum claims


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Very pleased to have played a role in bringing about this review: it was here on Free Movement that the case referred to by May was revealed before being picked up by The Observer.

A Home Office document leaked earlier this year revealed how one bisexual asylum seeker was asked a series of intrusive questions including: “What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?” May has asked the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, John Vine, to review asylum claims made on grounds of sexual orientation.

In a letter to him, May said: “We do need to establish that the risk of persecution is real, and this will often depend on whether the sexual orientation of the asylum seeker is as claimed. We seek to establish this at interview through questions about sexual orientation, not sexual behaviour.

“It was disappointing therefore to discover that we may not have followed our guidance in at least one case, which was brought to the attention of the media recently and where inappropriate questions appear to have been asked.

There is certainly every need for a review. In a case I was acting in last week the gay asylum seeker’s claim to be gay was rejected by the Home Office for reasons including “you have not attended any gay events, societies or clubs in the UK” and not knowing the surnames of men he had met through Grindr. This was even though he had very good evidence to show a relationship with his boyfriend, who was regularly visiting him in immigration detention, and statements from several other same sex partners.

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

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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.


8 Responses

  1. The review is welcome yes, maybe Theresa isn’t the unreconstructed dinosaur she often appears to be. I am however sceptical about anything actually changing on the ground.

  2. Ms May acts on this because she knows these publicised methods used by HO are her ultimate responsibility.She cannot blame anyone else.If she could she would. She will do anything that gets herself ‘off the hook’. Remember the Brodie Clark case?He took the fall not Ms May! He was a very experienced immigration officer. Which Ms May isn’t. You were correct in your first and second comment. But not your last

  3. I welcome Colin’s comments. I have been involved in many cases where Gay Cameroonian men have suffered violence at the hands of a mob of people and/or the police. Several have inadvertently drawn attention to their sexual identity by an embrace in public. It has seemed to me that these moments of inattention have arisen exactly because of the long term nature of their relationships and, sadly, in several cases the two partners have at that point become separated, and have never found eachother again.

    In such circumstances I have felt that it was totally inappropriate for interviewers and adjudicators to suggest that a gay asylum seeker should either have immediately embarked on a new relationship (when in a state of shock and grief), or gone out to gay haunts (when they have no comprehension that it would be safe to do so). They make these assertions about how people should live their lives but without having done what they are supposed to do – i.e. take a detailed history of how the person discovered their sexual identity, and what happened in the time that followed as a result of this knowledge.

    1. I suggest you are right that ‘the review is welcome’. You are right that’s Ms May ‘isn’t an unreconstructed dinosaur’.
      M May is a self centric scheming politician serving her own interests and ambitions. I suggest she will give instructions to stop this situation getting into the press.
      Or she will issue instructions to reconfigure the questioning – so it ‘seems’ less offensive.
      Ms May has been criticised by the Home Affairs Select Committee for paying HO staff their £10K annual bonuses. That hasn’t stopped her.
      Her purpose is entirely political i.e to reduce the numbers of net immigrants – to meet Cameron’s 2010 pre election pledge. The Tory party sees immigration as a vote winner – for them.
      Free Movement has clearly shown the way Ms May’s HO / Border Agency works. How they use any ‘trick’ they can get away with to fulfil Ms May’s ambitious instructions.
      But the figures show she is losing her battle due to EEA migrants.
      She hits NON EU migrants even harder to make up the numbers. May’s policy is about numbers. Not about right, or wrong, or justice.
      May’s policy actions since 2010 shows she completely lacks any compassion.
      You can ask the 17,800 British families who have had their family lives destroyed by Ms May’s policies since 2010. Because one spouse is a NON EU national.

  4. I am reminded of a gay Iranian case I had at the Refugee Legal Centre, who came to us for a second tier appeal. His asylum claim that he would be seriously persecuted in Iran on the grounds of his sexuality had been refused on the grounds that the HO did not believe he was gay. The immigration judge hearing his first apppeal accepted his claim to be gay, but said there was no danger to him in Iran. Eventually we had to make a fresh claim. I retired before the case was concluded but nine years on he is still here.

  5. I guess the buck does stop at Theresa’s desk. She should have had the wit to realise the manifesto commitment was nonsense and the courage to point this out to her party, instead of which she’s apparently decided to take her frustration at implementing a bankrupt policy out on the poor old ECHR. But I haven’t completely lost hope in Theresa… she did once call the Tories “the nasty party” after all. She must have supported Cameron’s gay marriage policy…this review would be in keeping with that.

    1. Sorry you have more confidence in Ms May than I have. She is very ambitious and wants to replace Cameron. She took the Home Sec’s job because she saw that as a way of realising her ambitions.
      But her lack on knowledge, and ability, shows that she has been, and is, completely out of her depth.
      I doubt she supports gay marriage. More like she is towing Cameron’s and the Tory line on that matter.
      As the Home Sec May is totally responsible for all Home Office matters – from immigration to detention centres and the deportations of persons for removal.
      But her policies are reported to have very far reaching financial and social effects on the UK.
      Vince Cable has challenged her on visas and the effect on trade to the UK. For which she has done nothing.
      The Middlesex University School of Law have done an ‘impact analysis’ on Ms May policy affecting British families denied a visa for a spouse to live with their family in the UK.
      The findings of the MU School of Law was that Ms May’s policy will cost the UK £850million over ten years! That averages £85million per year.
      Then consider it has been reported in the press the Home Office budget has overspent by £50M.
      The Public Accounts Select Committee criticised Ms May for not cutting back / reducing bureaucracy at the Home Office.
      The Home Office / Ms May recently refused a Freedom of Information request to provide information on the cost of immigration legal cases.
      There can only be one reason for such a refusal. Which is these costs are an ’embarrassment’ to Ms May and the Home Office.
      If that wasn’t the case I suggest Ms May would be only too delighted to ‘blow her own trumpet’!