Updated version.

Press Release
For Immediate Release 21st June 2017

First ever LGBTIQ refugee conference calls for end to ‘vile’ proof of sexuality policy

  • Conference marks 50 years since landmark of homosexuality law reform
  • Refugee speakers will explore ongoing plight of LGBT asylum seekers in UK
  • Call for Home Office to drop ‘proof of sexuality’ policy

Manchester will host the first ever LGBTIQ asylum seeker and refugee conference today [21st June], marking 50 years since the landmark Sexual Offences Act 1967 made the first steps towards decriminalising homosexuality in the UK.

The conference will feature LGBTIQ refugee speakers telling their stories, exploring changes in attitudes in the UK in the last 50 years and highlighting the plight still faced by LGBTIQ asylum seekers today.

In many countries, particularly in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal and violent attacks on LGBTIQ people are common. Many are forced to flee, some to the UK, after being publicly ‘outed’.

Gay asylum seekers coming to the UK face significant barriers. The Home Office refuses to accept that any asylum seekers are homosexual unless they provide ‘proof of sexuality’. Until recently, the Home Office had deported LGBTIQ asylum seekers on the grounds that they could ‘be discreet’ about their sexuality in their home country to avoid harm – that was ruled unlawful in 2010.

The conference is being organised by African Rainbow Family (ARF), a group that supports LGBTIQ people of African heritage and wider BAME in the UK. ARF works with the growing African LGBTIQ asylum seeker and refugee communities who face harassment, hate crimes and discrimination.

It will see a call on the Home Office to abandon its ‘proof of sexuality’ policy, which ARF says is demeaning and cruel.

Speakers will include:

  • Peter Tatchell, leading human rights and LGBTIQ campaigner
  • Barrister S. Chelvan, LGBTIQ asylum law specialist
  • Paul Dillane, Chief Executive of Kaleidoscope Trust
  • Sue Sanders, Emeritus Professor at the Harvey Milk Institute
  • Aderonke Apata LGBTIQ campaigner and founder, African Rainbow Family

Aderonke Apata, Founder of the ARF and a long-term campaigner on LGBTIQ asylum, who is also speaking at the conference, said:

“Despite the gains in acceptance of LGBTIQ people in the UK, LGBT asylum seekers’ and refugees’ situation remains precarious. The Home Office needs to catch up with the rest of the UK, drop its vile ‘proof of sexuality’ policy and move on from 1967.

“All LGBTIQ people seeking asylum in the UK want – like anyone else – is to be treated with fairness and humanity. Having been forced to flee by hate and intolerance at home, being branded a liar by the Home Office is demeaning and cruel for LGBTIQ people seeking asylum.

“I hope the Home Office will listen to the message coming out of our conference and treat everyone with the decency and respect they deserve.”

/ENDS

Notes to editors:

More information and tickets to the conference:https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lgbt-asylum-seekers-refugees-tell-their-stories-in-manchester-tickets-34762202684?aff=eac2

More information about the African Rainbow Family:https://africanrainbowfamily.org/

Homosexuality remains a criminal offence in 75 countries and in 14 is punishable by lengthy imprisonment and death – including in Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Pakistan.

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