MPs are “deeply concerned” that relocating LGBTQ+ refugees seeking asylum to Rwanda could put them at greater risk of harm, according to a new report from the Women and Equalities Committee.
It has called for an “urgent review” of the safeguards in place for vulnerable people in all types of asylum accommodation, including that which currently exists, as well as the Home Office’s proposed use of barges.
“Housing vulnerable asylum seekers, including single women, mothers, children and LGBT people, in crowded hotel and other types of contingency accommodation is unacceptable,” part of the report’s summary said. “While use of hotels and other contingency settings persists, there must be effective policies and practices in place to better protect vulnerable adults and children from harm.”
The Committee, which is chaired by Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, also highlighted “clear risks that the asylum provisions in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 will have unequal impacts” on certain groups of people, including members of the LGBTQ+ community with “complex sexual orientation and gender-based claims”.
“People with vulnerabilities arising from Equality Act protected characteristics, including women with histories of gender-based violence and abuse, children, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and disabled people, experience unnecessary risks under the Home Office’s management of the asylum process,” the summary continued. “Recent and proposed changes to the system are likely to increase those risks. The Home Office must demonstrate it is taking effective steps to mitigate unequal effects.”
If the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, more people could be detained for longer periods of time – something which has been proven to come with greater risks for LGBTQ+ people who may experience hate crimes or abuse while in detention.
The report urges the government to set out plans of how it intends to mitigate risks of harm to vulnerable groups in detention, as well as to collect and monitor data on where LGBTQ+ people are being held and for how long – something which is not currently tracked.
It also calls on it to “set out how it intends to monitor and ensure those removed to Rwanda do not suffer harm or experience discrimination in that country”.
“The inhumane policies towards people seeking asylum in the UK have to stop immediately”
Rwandan law forbids the changing of someone’s legal gender and, although homosexuality is not technically illegal, LGBTQ+ people often face arrest under laws that exist to uphold “good morals” there.
As such, LGBTQ+ activists and organisations have been critical of the government ever since it announced its intention to send refugees there.
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, a charity that helps LGBTQ+ refugees through the asylum and immigration process, said: “This report, for which Rainbow Migration gave oral and written evidence, is sending a very clear message to this government. The inhumane policies towards people seeking asylum in the UK have to stop immediately.
“This government’s legislation will put LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in dangerous situations, by detaining them in greater numbers and sending them to countries where they could face discrimination and violence.
“Instead, this government needs to focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness”.
The report can be read in full here.