How to be part of #MoreThanSimplyGay

Read our Open Letter to the UK Home Secretary here

Dear Home Secretary,

RE: Your Statement of Intention to Revoke Protection for LGBTIQ+ Refugees and People Seeking Asylum

We, the undersigned, write as a collective of organisations, academics and individuals defending and advocating for LGBTIQ+ and women’s rights in the United Kingdom (UK). Experts by Experience, that is, LGBTIQ+ and women with Lived Experience of the asylum system are also signatories to this letter. We are profoundly concerned about your recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, where you questioned the eligibility of LGBTIQ+ individuals and women’s rights to seek asylum in the UK. We strongly urge you to reconsider and retract these statements as such rhetoric only further emboldens the persecution and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people and women worldwide. Particularly, in light of the serious discrimination and persecution faced by individuals fleeing their home countries due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

It is crucial to emphasize that membership of a Particular Social Group, which includes LGBTIQ+ individuals and women, constitutes a valid ground for international protection under the Geneva Conventions. This recognition is vital for upholding the core principles of human rights and providing refuge to those facing severe discrimination and persecution in their home countries, where they are unable to avail themselves of protection and safety.

Globally, there are sixty-four countries where ‘simply being’ a part of the LGBTIQ+ community is criminalised. Moreover, the infringement of LGBTIQ+ and women’s rights are on the rise globally, with several countries even introducing the death penalty for community members in recent months. As signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1998 Human Rights Act, the UK holds the responsibility to provide sanctuary and protection to those facing serious discrimination, persecution or loss of freedom in their home countries.

Your attempt to redefine the parameters warranting protection while disregarding the intersectional experiences of discrimination and persecution, is unfounded, unwarranted, fearful and causes untold damage to an already vulnerable group of people.

Your recent statement not only displays recklessness but also a deep insensitivity towards a pressing issue. To assert that ‘simply being gay’ or a woman and are fearful of discrimination should not guarantee protection under international law underlines your failure to comprehend the gravity of the persecution faced by LGBTIQ+ individuals and women in many parts of the world.

We strongly believe that if someone is subjected to criminalisation and persecution solely based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in their home country, it should unquestionably and absolutely be enough reason to grant them asylum and protection wherever they can find safety. Denying this fundamental right leaves LGBTIQ+ individuals and women caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, with nowhere to turn for refuge.

We stand with the UNHCR’s assertion that The Refugee Convention and the amendments via the 1967 Protocol are at the core of international refugee protection and serves as a means of saving millions of lives every year by prioritising human life over national politics. In response to your speech, that the UK cannot sustain its asylum system if it continues to accept those that are ‘simply gay’ or women, we politely remind you that of the 35.3 million refugees worldwide – 70% remain in neighbouring countries and 76% in countries with low and middle income . To break this down further, in 2022, a mere 2% of asylum claims made in the UK included sexual orientation as part of the basis for the claim .

Our service users at the African Rainbow Family and the various signatory organisations whom we support have routinely experienced both discrimination and persecution in their various home countries. Your comments have considerably exacerbated their ongoing mental health and well-being issues. This further heightens the challenges that they already face.

Therefore, we respectfully request the following:

  1. Retract your assertion that being a member of a Particular Social Group, here, an LGBTIQ+ person and/or a woman is not enough a persecutory ground for asylum and subsequently, protection.
  2. Rescind any suggestion to ‘rewrite’ the Refugee Convention to exclude the membership of a Particular Social Group as a valid ground for international protection.
  3. Leverage the UK’s proud legacy as a High Contracting party to the Refugee Convention and as a champion in protecting the rights of LGBTIQ+ people and/or women to enhance the nation’s standing as a beacon for human rights and global equality.
  4. Facilitate the UK’s commitments to human rights stronger in the global playing-field and extend this leading role to everyone who identifies as an LGBTIQ+ person and/or woman around the world who is facing discrimination or persecution and needs protection.
  5. Show compassion, solidarity, humanity and support for LGBTIQ+ people and/or women seeking asylum who reach the shores of the UK and grant them the protection that they desperately need.
  6. Assure us that the Home Office and other agencies of government would not adopt your assertion as an unwritten policy to deny SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression) based asylum claims.

We look forward to your prompt response and a reconsideration of the statement in contention. We welcome opportunities to collaborate and work more closely towards a more compassionate solution that resonates with the principles of The Refugee Convention and embodies the values upheld by the UK.

See our CEO, Aderonke Apata, speak to Channel 4 News about this disturbing situation:

(skip to 8:42)

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