* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.People seeking asylum are already exhausted by painfully slow processes – and now these new measures could worsen their situation
Leila Zadeh is Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, a charity supporting people seeking asylum.
This month, the UK government introduced legislation that will remove the right for people to seek safety simply based on how they travelled here, regardless of whether they need protection.
It has already caused huge anxiety among LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the UK. At Rainbow Migration, we are contacted by LGBTQ+ people seeking safety here every week, many of whom have just arrived after fleeing homophobic violence in their home countries.
They are already exhausted from the painful and slow asylum process - and now they are horrified by the prospect of these new measures which could worsen their situation.
One of them mentioned that they feel ‘unwanted’ in the UK. As a former refugee myself, this breaks my heart.
Among other cruel proposals, the new legislation lists a series of ‘safe’ countries where people can be sent to have their claims processed there instead of in the UK. However, many of these countries are unsafe for LGBTQ+ people.
For example, this government deems Ghana to be safe for men, but in 2021 nine people from Ghana were granted refugee status in the UK based on their sexual orientation.
Only three months ago, in December 2022, Adams, a bisexual man from Ghana was granted asylum in the UK with Rainbow Migration’s support.
He told us that as an openly bisexual man he wasn’t safe in Ghana, and he had been violently attacked in the street on several occasions. When he got to the UK, he got the news that his partner had been killed back at home.
Worryingly, Nigeria is listed as a safe country for men as well, but up to 50 people were granted asylum in the UK on the grounds of their sexual orientation in 2021.
We are also routinely contacted by Brazilian LGBTQ+ people who fear return to their country and with good reason, as Brazil has one of the highest rates of violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the world. But this too is deemed to be a ‘safe’ place.
And there’s also Rwanda, where LGBTQI+ people are subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse, as Innocent, a gay man who grew up there, explained.
The proposed bill will also make it easier for this government to lock people up in immigration detention for up to 28 days with no possibility of applying to the tribunal for bail or judicial review.
This could lead to thousands of people being locked away in prison-like conditions, including LGBTQ+ people, who are at additional risk of harm in detention.
Now more than ever, we need to come together and tell this government: Enough is enough.
Instead of punishing people who come here wanting to rebuild their lives, this government must protect them by building a compassionate asylum and immigration system that treats people with kindness.
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