UK

LGBT Asylum Seekers Are Still Being Asked Graphic Questions By The Home Office

23/10/2014 15:50 BST | Updated 23/10/2014 15:59 BST

LGBT asylum seekers trying to find sanctuary in Britain to avoid persecution - for their sexuality are still being subjected to questions that "query the validity of same-sex relationships," a new report has claimed.

The Home Office was condemned earlier this year when The Observer reported that LGBT people applying for asylum in Britain were being asked "shockingly degrading" questions about their sexual behaviour, including "Did you put your penis into x's backside?" and "When x was penetrating you, did you have an erection?"

But a new report has revealed that LGBT asylum seekers still face "unsatisfactory" questions from Home Office officials, including ones that were "likely to elicit sexually explicit responses or querying the validity of same-sex relationships".

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Home Office staff have been asking LGBT asylum seekers that "query the validity" of their sexuality, the report said

In one case, an asylum seeker was asked: "What do you believe a relationship with a man may provide that is absent from a heterosexual partner?"

In another, someone was asked why they "felt the need to have sex every day" with their lover while holidaying in a country where homosexuality was taboo.

One Ghanaian Lesbian, who had been raped by male guards while in prison in the African country, was bluntly asked why she once had sex with a man.

The interviewer said: "You decide to go against everything you believe in and have sex with a man, surely you could not have been that drunk that you did not realise what you were doing?"

The chief inspector of immigration and borders John Vine, who authored the report, said such questions were asked in more than 10% of the interviews he sampled and had to be "eradicated".

He wrote that "unsatisfactory" questions like these were twice as common in Detained Fast Track (DFT) cases, where the asylum seeker is held in custody while their application is fast tracked.

These claims are handled by separate staff who, until recently, only underwent abridged training on sensitively interviewing applicants, the report said.

Paul Dillane, the executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, said the report raised issues that needed "urgent consideration" and said the inappropriate questions had to stop.

He said: "In our experience, the majority of gay, lesbian and bisexual people are detained upon claiming asylum – frequently for weeks or months – yet seeking asylum is not a crime.

"Sexual identity claims are inherently complex and should have no place in this detained process.

"We have serious concerns about conditions in immigration detention centres where people regularly recount instances of homophobic bullying, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and even sexual harassment from other detainees.

"The Home Office must ensure applicants are treated with dignity and respect, these issues urgent consideration.”

He added: "The Home Office must take further action to improve asylum decision-making and ensure people whose lives are at risk because of their sexual identity are granted refugee protection in the UK."

Mr Vine's report also said he found it "worrying" that applicants in a fifth of the interviews he sampled were asked questions that "stereotyped" LGBT people.

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In one case, the interviewer "stereotyped gay male promiscuity" by repeatedly asking how many sexual partners the applicant had.

When the asylum seeker repeatedly said he could not remember, the interviewer asked: "Less than 100?"

One Lesbian asylum seeker said the femininity of her appearance was questioned, suggesting the interviewers had a stereotype that Lesbian asylum seekers have a masculine appearance.

One was asked: "Which annual gay events have you taken part in?"

The report said questions based on stereotypes could damage asylum seekers' chances of being allowed in if they have had kept their sexuality a secret, by forcing them to embellish evidence.

"An applicant faced with the question quoted above might feel pressured to embellish evidence on the understanding that a grant of asylum would be dependent on having attended such events," it said.

"We are concerned that stereotyped expectations might impact on genuine applicants still coming to terms with their sexuality, those who have decided not to express it openly in the UK , perhaps for religious reasons."

Despite the findings, Mr Vine said there was no correlation between being asked invasive, disbelieving questions and whether their asylum claim was rejected.

He said he did not find any questions as graphic as those described in The Observer article, which triggered his review.

A Home Office spokeswoman told HuffPost UK: "The chief inspector praised our guidance and training on handling sexual orientation claims, stating that it was clear and concise.

"We worked closely with organisations such as Stonewall, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to develop this training, which is now mandatory for all our caseworkers.

“We have accepted all of the recommendations in this report and are putting in place measures to implement them.”