For explanation purposes, seeking asylum means seeking protection from strict laws, death penalties, inhumane laws and maybe wars.
The asylum system which was designed literally to protect every now and then, seeks to go against the main purpose it was created for. I will explain how.
As a lesbian woman who has to prove that I am a lesbian in order to get protection here in the United Kingdom (UK), I have to provide evidence of my sexuality. How is it expected that someone running from a homophobic country and who has been in the closet for most of her life, to give evidence of that.
Also disclosing information about the women that one must have dated in hiding or even asking them for letters and/or any evidence to corroborate one’s story is in fact a security breach.
Some of us who are out or were outed, move out to enjoy the LGBT scene by going to pride, gay bars, speaking up against homophobia, racism and discrimination and it is no longer a secret. It means that if one ever goes back to one’s own country of origin, that person is risking their life.
Some people think that putting ourselves out there might just be for the asylum process but no, it is like getting out of prison and wanting to do everything that one could not do when in chains.
That is how an LGBT person seeking asylum feels in a country where they can be themselves even though the asylum process makes it hard for one to enjoy that.
The new rules, that are about to kick off are extremely difficult and absurd. They include:
- Housing people seeking asylum in reception centres, potentially overseas, while their asylum claims are being processed.
- Moving those refused asylum through a fast-tracked appeals process and curtailing the right to challenge refusal decisions.
- Requiring all evidence to be submitted at the beginning of the asylum process, telling judges to “give weight” to evidence raised alter and requiring a higher standard of proof for these.
- “Clarifying” what qualifies as a “well founded fear of persecution” and making it “much harder” for people to be granted refugee status based on “unsubstantiated” claims.
Keeping people seeking asylum in reception centres is not safe especially for an LGBT person. More especially for a gay man, transgender, lesbian woman etc.
Already there have been complaints about abuse in the asylum housing system. Imagine how it would then be like in reception centres that might not actually be in the country that one has put in one’s asylum application for protection.
The idea of “requiring all evidence to be submitted at the beginning of the asylum process, telling judges to give “minimal weight” to evidence raised later and requiring a higher standard of proof” is impractical and outright wicked to say the least because it means as an LGBT person seeking asylum, if you do not have a proof of your sexuality from the start then you are not valid and could be turned away.
Let us be practical here, a lesbian woman from Nigeria or Ghana who is obviously running for her life or has been in hiding, dating a woman behind closed doors and looking for a way out, puts in her asylum application and is asked for evidence from the start when all she has is her story and stories of the homophobic laws in her country which can easily be found on the internet. How can she provide proof of same-sex personal relationships?
How unfair is it to this lesbian because sometimes even with all the proof and letters, one still gets their asylum application refused.
These proposals are so harsh and inhumane. When I look at the future of the asylum process for people like me who might want to live their lives devoid of fear, and if these proposals are passed it will become very difficult. It will in fact not be an asylum system that protects but a system that is toxic, blind to justice and human rights and/or lives.
I ask that people look into the different Home Office asylum proposals. Not just the ones that I spoke about but also the ones that stop children from uniting with their families. Speak up against these laws, show support and love for people in the asylum process because news like this can be heart breaking.
By: Vanessa Nessakem Nwosu. 7th April 2021.
Trustee, Media Volunteer and Member