UK should not detain 'at risk' LGBT+ asylum seekers - lawmakers

by Rachel Savage | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 21 March 2019 13:11 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A British police officer stands guard outside Harmondsworth detention centre, in west London, following a disturbance sparked by the death of a detainee, July 20, 2004. REUTERS/Toby Melville TM/MD

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LGBT+ asylum seekers should be recognised as particularly vulnerable and are often traumatised after fleeing persecution, said parliamentarians

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, March 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain should not put LGBT+ asylum seekers in immigration detention centres where they risk being abused and harassed by staff and other detainees, lawmakers said on Thursday.

Gay and transgender people are often traumatised after fleeing persecution back home, said the Home Affairs Committee, whose inquiry was prompted by a scandal over abuse of detainees by staff in one centre where self-harm and suicide attempts were widespread.

"The Government should recognise that LGBTQI people are vulnerable in immigration detention, thereby extending the recognition that it already affords to trans and intersex people," the committee's report said.

Britain has not routinely detained transgender and intersex immigrants since 2016, as it deems them to be "at risk" of harm.

"Detention is an important part of our immigration system – but it must be fair, humane and used only when absolutely necessary," a Home Office spokesman said, while declining to comment specifically on LGBT+ asylum seekers. "We are committed to going further and faster with reforms to immigration detention."

About 2,000 people a year apply for asylum in Britain based on their sexuality, according to government data. Only 22 percent of such claims were successful in 2017.

Leila Zadeh, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, said asylum seekers have contacted her organisation reporting suicide attempts or flashbacks of torture while in immigration detention.

"The sad reality is that the people we support are in the UK seeking safety from persecution, but inside a detention centre they can find themselves locked up among the same people who display the hostile attitudes they tried to escape," Zadeh said.

LGBT+ asylum seekers are often required to "prove" their sexuality or gender but struggle to collect evidence of, for example, using online dating while in detention without access to social media, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The government does not keep data on the number of gay, trans and intersex people in immigration detention, something that the report recommended be rectified.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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