“There is no such thing as ‘illegal’ migration, the birds migrate to seek better environments”. This is what a gay man from South East Asia told us when we asked him what he thought about the heartless Refugee Ban Bill (officially known as Illegal Migration Bill) that this government is rushing through Parliament.
He came to the UK seeking to rebuild his life in safety and, after months waiting for a decision, he was granted refugee status back in January this year. However, he is concerned about the effects that this bill will have on other LGBTQ+ people who might seek protection from the UK, like he did.
If passed into law, the Refugee Ban Bill would make it more likely that people seeking safety in the UK will end up locked away in immigration detention, for a minimum of 28 days. This will include LGBTQ+ people, who will face LGBTQ-phobic bullying, harassment and verbal and physical abuse, with serious consequences for their mental health.
After being locked up in prison-like conditions, they could be sent to countries that are dangerous for LGBTQ+ people and where they don’t have any connection or support.
For example Ghana, a country that this government deems to be safe for men, but in 2021 nine people from Ghana were granted refugee status in the UK based on their sexual orientation. At Rainbow Migration we have supported people from Ghana, like Adams, who told his story not long ago.
Nigeria is also listed as a safe country for men, but only last week a gay man from Nigeria that we have been supporting for two years was granted refugee status. In 2021 there were up to 50 grants of asylum made to people from Nigeria based on their sexual orientation.
The list of countries this government could send people to also includes Rwanda, where LGBTQ+ people face discrimination, violence and abuse, as Innocent, a gay man who grew up there, explained.
Most of us would welcome LGBTQ+ people who can’t be themselves in other countries to rebuild their lives in safety here. But instead, this government is going in the opposite direction with its appalling treatment of people simply seeking a safe place to live.
During Pride Month and Refugee Week we need to come together and urge this government to stop punishing LGBTQ+ people for wanting to live safely and instead start treating them with kindness and compassion.
Leila Zadeh is the Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, a charity supporting LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum.