An independent committee report in the UK recently found that gay and lesbian asylum seekers were being told they must prove their sexuality in order to enter the country.
Released by the Home Affairs Select Committee, the report expressed concerns at the way the UK Border Agency was treating asylum seekers who claimed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.
According to the BBC, some claimants were asked to provide anecdotal evidence and hand over reading material details or photographic and video footage of “highly personal sexual activity” in order to prove their sexuality.
Home Affairs Select Committee chairman and Labour MP Keith Vaz said it was “absurd” for a judge or a caseworker to ask an individual to prove they identified as LGBTI in this way.
“People should accept the statement of sexuality by those who seek asylum. This practice is regrettable and ought to be stopped immediately,” he said.
The report also stated that LGBTI individuals were confronted by “extraordinary obstacles” in persuading immigration officers of their case. Many of these individuals face homophobic persecution in their home countries where same-sex sexual activity remains illegal.
In addition, the report said: “the battleground is now firmly centred in ‘proving’ that they are gay. In turn, this has led to claimants going to extreme lengths to try and meet the new demands of credibility assessment in this area, including the submission of photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, presenting officers and the judiciary.”
The committee has called into question the quality of the UK Border Agency’s decision-making where 30 per cent of appeals made against officers’ initial decisions were granted last year.
They also questioned the 32,600 backlogged asylum cases dating back to 2011 that are yet to be concluded. The backlog has some individuals waiting up to 16 years for a decision on their case.
A Home Office spokesman responded to the report by saying that the UK had a “proud history” of granting asylum to those who needed it.
“We are committed to concluding all cases as quickly as possible, but asylum cases are often complex and require full and thorough consideration,” the spokesman said.
The Refugee Council said the report highlighted “grave concerns” they had about the UK’s asylum system.