By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com October 11 2013 1:38 PM ET
LGBT people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are being asked to provide explicit proof of their sexual identity, says a Parliament committee.
In some cases, those fleeing persecution in other countries had given the U.K. Border Agency photos and videos detailing “highly personal sexual activity,” says the Home Affairs Committee’s report on the matter, according to the BBC.
“We were concerned to hear that the decision making process for LGBTI applicants relies so heavily on anecdotal evidence and ‘proving that they are gay,’” reads the report, adding: “It is not appropriate to force people to prove their sexuality if there is a perception that they are gay.”
Committee chairman Keith Vaz told the BBC, “It is absurd for a judge or a caseworker to have to ask an individual to prove that they are lesbian or gay, to ask them what kind of films they watch, what kind of material they read. People should accept the statement of sexuality by those who seek asylum. This practice is regrettable and ought to be stopped immediately.”
The LGBT rights group Stonewall termed the matter “distressing.” “Being gay isn't about what nightclubs you go to; it is a fundamental part of who you are,” spokesman Richard Lane told the network. “Sadly, in far too many cases, valuable time is spent attempting to ‘prove’ a claimant is gay in this way rather than establishing whether they have a legitimate fear of persecution.”
Officials with the Home Office, which oversees the Border Agency, pledged to “monitor performance to ensure that standards are met.” The report also criticized the agency for its growing backlog of cases, poor housing provided to asylum-seekers, and questionable decision-making that has led to a large number of appeals and put the nation at risk of sheltering war criminals.