The proportion asylum claims from members of the LGBT+ community that have been rejected by the Home Office has surged in recent years, according to government data.
In total, 78 per cent of asylum claims that included a reference to sexual orientation were refused last year, or a total of 1,464 people. This was a 52 per cent rise on 2015's figures when 61 per cent or 964 similar claims were rejected.
Campaigners said the figures were “deeply worrying” and claimed the Home Office had “set the bar too high” for people seeking protection.
Many are left with no option but to return to countries where they could face prison, violence, or death, they added.
The data, which the government only started publishing last year, shows that of the 5,316 asylum applications made on the grounds of sexual orientation over the three year period, 3,776 were refused.
Of the 2,908 claimants who appealed their negative decisions over that time, more than two thirds had their rejections overturned, the figures show.
The proportion of LGBT+ claims accepted by the Home Office was considerably steeper than the drop in the grant rate for asylum seekers overall, which fell from 40 per cent to 32 per cent over the same period.
One gay man, who wanted to be named only as Mo, recently had his asylum claim refused after fleeing from a Middle Eastern country where he was experiencing anti-LGBT+ discrimination.
He told The Independent: “The Home Office treat me like I’m a liar. I’ve told them my situation, but they don’t believe me. I have a medical report and they asked why it was in English, but that’s normal in my country. I don’t know how I can prove to them that my story is true.”
Responding to the figures, Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “This is deeply concerning. Ministers need to offer an explanation as to why there has been a drop in protection offered to those in an already vulnerable position, who may be seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation.”Liberal
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said Home Office officials were in some cases stating that applicants were not LGBT+ "merely to justify a refusal in order to meet the requirements of their ministers" – something he said "should never be allowed to happen".
He added: "The Home Office may have good policy on paper, but it is clear the practice is both humiliating and completely unacceptable. This process sees too many LGBT+ applicants ordered back to countries where they are at risk of persecution or in some cases death.
"Many individuals who I speak to seeking asylum on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity are in disbelief how they are treated by the Home Office. I urge the Conservative government to establish a dedicated unit to handle asylum applications, outside the Home Office and free of political interference. These inhumane and degrading practices must come to an end immediately.”
Leila Zadeh, executive director of UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration group (UKLGIG), said the decline was “extremely worrying”.
She added: “Our research has shown that the Home Office routinely disbelieves LGBTQI+ asylum claimants and disregard statements from friends, partners and organisations testifying to a claimant's sexual orientation or gender identity. The Home Office is setting the bar too high for LGBTQI+ people. They are not applying the correct legal standard of proof that it is 'reasonably likely' that someone will be persecuted. It is imperative that the Home Secretary agrees to an independent public audit into asylum decision-making.”
The latest figures come after the government announced in July that it was going to review its guidance for caseworkers on processing asylum claims on the basis of sexual orientation – but ministers offered no details as to when and how this would be carried out.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This government is committed to an immigration system which is fair and humane and this includes being supportive and responsive to those claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation. All asylum claims lodged in the UK, including those on the grounds of sexual orientation, are carefully considered on their individual merits. Decision-makers are given dedicated training and guidance on how to handle such claims.
“No one who is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm in their country of origin because of their sexuality will be returned.”
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