UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) talks about the services and support they provide to lesbian and gay refugees and asylum seekers.
UKLGIG promotes equality and dignity for asylum seekers and refugees who are Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT). We see a lot more men than women and we also work with a small number of transgender people. We have engaged with over 400 clients in the last three years and now work with approximately 200 people a year.
We support asylum seekers in many ways some of these include:
- Linking them with legal representatives experienced in LGBT issues
- Helping them to write support statements, which can also help them come to terms with their sexuality/gender identity and build confidence
- Supporting people making fresh asylum claims on the basis of sexuality/gender identity if people have previously claimed on other grounds through fear
- Holding monthly support and advice meetings
- Training for refugee organisations, immigration judges and UKBA case owners on LGBT issues
- Undertaking research and policy work – including working with the Advisory Panel on Country Information to improve information and understanding of the issues people face in their countries of origin.
Numerous challenges face LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. Imagine you are coming from a place where you’ve had to lie and be ashamed of your sexuality and then to arrive in the UK and have to say to a uniformed officer, ‘I am gay’ immediately. If you do not claim asylum straight away on the basis of persecution for being LGBT, then this can be a problem when submitting a fresh claim.
People can feel isolated and may not feel comfortable approaching RCOs as they may be subjected to similar experiences as they were at home, or feel they need to hide their identity. In order to effectively raise awareness of LGBT issues among RCOs, there needs to be an awareness of the different types of persecution that people can experience and the impact that it can have.
When setting up an RCO to support LGBT refugees and asylum seekers it is important to first find a safe space to meet (probably not in RCO premises) and to start making links with local LGBT groups. You can start small and build the service up in consultation with clients, so that you are developing the type of service that is needed.
It is also important to make spaces more gay/transgender friendly. For example by putting up a few posters, displaying books and magazines wherever you are meeting clients. To find out more, you can visit our website at www.uklgig.org.uk.
This article first appeared in the Refugee Council publication, RCO News.