An article published in the Independent today has highlighted the insensitive nature of tribunal judges whilst questioning homosexual asylum seekers. Research by LGBT support groups show that 98% of these types of asylum cases were rejected first time around.
Claire Bennett, a researcher at the University of Southampton, interviewed women from conservative countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uganda to find out what their experiences were like whilst applying for asylum in the UK. She found that tribunal judges acted insensitively and inappropriately when trying to establish whether the women before them were really gay and therefore would be likely to suffer persecution in their home country.
Claire Bennett’s findings include:
- Jamaican asylum seeker told “you don’t look like a lesbian”;
- Pakistani lesbian asylum seeker asked what clubs she went to despite knowing that she was a Muslim woman whose religious beliefs forbade her to drink; and
- Ugandan asylum seeker asked whether she read Oscar Wilde.
These findings will be presented to the British Sociological Association’s annual conference and will raise questions on whether judges should be given training on how to deal with asylum seekers claiming they cannot return to their home country as their sexual orientation will expose them to persecution.
This may also be a good time for the Government to release statistics from immigration tribunals on how many people each year apply for asylum claiming that they face persecution because of their sexuality.