The unique experience of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers within the UK

Asylum Links offers refugees and asylum seekers the accessibility to documents and contacts that assist them in establishing the rights that are available to them in the country they are trying to relocate to. Having fled a country that has stripped these rights from them, Asylum Links facilitates the necessary information and support to help refugees, migrants and asylum seekers to reconfigure their lives in a period of turmoil and uncertainty.

Women and minors have been recognised as being especially threatened by their situation as refugees, however another unique situation that has not been quite as widely acknowledged is that of LGBTQ refugees. LGBTQ people may have been forced out of their country due to their experience surrounding their sexual orientation, or otherwise due to political conflict.

Asylum seekers in the UK are at risk of isolation due to the weighted pressure of seeking security without the prejudice they are conditioned to be fearful of.  Their previous circumstances may have shaped a wariness or uncertainty within them due to the riskiness of being open about their identity within their home territory. If it is difficult to trust people with the knowledge of your identity within the social environment of your origins, how readily can you trust people in a new and unfamiliar backdrop. Implications may arise for LGBTQ people if their gender identity or sexual orientation was to be found out by people from within their home communities. This shows the lasting impact of the LGBTQ refugee experience, even once they have arrived in Scotland. This notably affects mental health and also the confidence to approach the appropriate support services. They may struggle in expressing themselves emotionally, but lack of knowledge in regards to language specific to LGBTQ identity may also create a barrier when seeking advice.

The intersectionality of LGBTQ experiences requires expert support in that every case is unique within the larger experience of being a refugee. This is where Asylum Links provides a network of helpful sources to whatever range of support is solicited. In the past, the Scottish Asylum system has not been sufficient in thoroughly protecting LGBTQ people. Often, when making asylum claims, the system dismissed the legitimacy of their experience by purporting that security could be available to them within their home country if they were to maintain their gender identity or sexual orientation as private. Although, it is no longer viable to reject asylum claims for this reason, LGBTQ refugees are still particularly vulnerable in their journey. LGBTQ people constantly face misrepresentation, with organisations and authorities lacking in understanding of the intersectionality of their experiences in relation to their gender identity and sexual orientation. Asylum seekers have been known to have claims rejected under premise they cannot ‘prove’ their sexuality.  Detention centres are also known for having a history of violence and abuse towards LGBTQ people as there is not sufficient support or refuge from these antagonistic behaviours. This emphasises the length of the journey and also the necessity for an immediate support system when refugees arrive in the UK. It is a basic human right to live freely under whatever gender identity or sexual orientation and this struggle to maintain this human right without discrimination can still be overlooked.

These are examples of how LGBTQ people have a lonely and frustrating experience as refugees. Therefore, carefully tailored advice is at the crux of improving this difficult passage, helping alleviate a situation that is both intimidating and overwhelming.


by Charlotte Thornton

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

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