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World Refugee Day is on 20 June. June is also Pride Month and LGBTQ+ people and our allies, across the UK and globally, will be taking the opportunity to highlight issues impacting LGBTQ+ people. 

The UK is now ranked fourteenth in Europe on LGBTQ+ rights, having ranked first in 2015. Many of us will be protesting this summer and speaking out about the erosion of our rights. I was really excited when I learned about Rainbow Migration’s new flagship campaign No Pride in Detention.

LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum here face terrible challenges. Last year Rainbow Migration provided support to more than 140 people and helped 100 others to access health and mental health services. They enabled 195 people to access safe housing and provided more than 180 legal consultations.

I still find it shocking that LGBTQ+ asylum claimants have to prove their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2020, 44 per cent of people who claimed asylum on the basis of sexual orientation were granted asylum at the initial decision. A further 47 per cent were granted asylum at appeal. The Home Office was already setting an impossibly high bar for LGBTQ+ people and under the recent Nationality & Borders Act, everything will become even harder.

Many LGBTQ+ people don’t claim asylum immediately after arrival because they might not know they can or they might be too afraid or embarrassed to say they are LGBTQ+. Under this Act they could be granted only two-and-a-half years to stay and then have to regularly reapply – living under the constant fear that they may be returned.

“Proving” your sexuality or gender identity means providing evidence to Home Office officials, such as documentation, photos or texts corroborating that you are LGBTQ+, with most significance given to materials relating to the country a claimant is fleeing from. This is counterintuitive – if it is illegal to be LGBTQ+ in the country you are fleeing from, why would you collect evidence that could incriminate you?

Many LGBTQ+ people claiming asylum rely on the support they receive from charities, faith groups and other organisations after arriving in the UK – some only really learn the vocabulary to articulate their LGBTQ+ identities once they are here.

It is therefore extremely problematic when LGBTQ+ people are held in one of the UK’s seven detention centres. To put this in context, the UK is the only European country to hold people in detention without a time limit. The Home Office recognises that detention can be dangerous for trans and intersex people so they are less likely to be detained, but this standard is not applied to all LGBTQ+ people.

These detention centres are similar to prisons, with LGBTQ+ people having to once again conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity out of self-preservation. Rainbow Migration’s No Pride in Detention campaign has a clear call to action. They want your support to call on the government to completely end the detention of LGBTQ+ people and to limit the detention of all people to 28 days.

This Pride Month I encourage you to add your name, so that we can hopefully end the detention of LGBTQ+ asylum claimants once and for all. 

“Detention is awful for anyone, but we know from our research that for LGBTQI+ people the impact can be devastating. As well as being deprived of their freedom and cut off from support networks, they face LGBTQI-phobic bullying, discrimination and abuse from staff and others in detention. We need to come together and show this government that the LGBTQI+ community won’t stand for some of its most marginalised members being locked up in places they aren’t safe. Please join our campaign.” – Leila Zedah, Executive Director, Rainbow Migration