LGBT Asylum Seekers Say They Face Homophobic Abuse in UK Detention Centers

By Ben Bryant

Gay and lesbian asylum seekers face homophobic abuse and sexual harassment in UK detention centers, former detainees have told VICE News.

The LGBT individuals fled persecution in their home nations to seek asylum in the UK on the grounds of their sexual orientation. They say they were bullied, threatened, or sexually harassed while they waited weeks – or even months, in some cases – for a judgment on their applications. The former detainees agreed to speak about their experiences only on the condition of anonymity.

One asylum seeker told VICE News that he waited longer than six months for the Home Office to reach a decision on his application, and was prescribed sedative antidepressants to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression stemming from the homophobic abuse he encountered in government accommodations.

Another said he was sexually assaulted at Harmondsworth immigration removal center by a fellow detainee, and that he felt “totally unsafe” in detention.

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In March, UK Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a review of how border officials handle asylum claims and pledged that all claimants would be treated with “respect and dignity.”

However, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) said its LGBT clients “regularly complain about bullying, verbal abuse and threats of violence,” while in detention or community accommodation, according to the group’s submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK filed last month. The group also criticized the lack of published statistics relating to sexual and gender identity asylum claims.

Tahir, 35, came to London as an IT student in 2006. He applied for asylum earlier this year after he was almost beaten to death by his brothers over his sexuality on a visit to his home in southern Punjab, Pakistan.

Tahir was detained for three weeks in April at Harmondsworth removal center, which was then run by private contractor GEO Group Ltd, but has since been taken over by Mitie, an outsourcing company. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mitie.

The facility, located near London’s Heathrow Airport, houses approximately 620 men. Five inmates have died there since 2000, including three who were found hanged in their cells.

Tahir described the facility as “totally unsafe” for LGBT asylum seekers. Once inside, he was subjected to verbal abuse and sexual harassment. On one occasion, he says that he was pulled into another detainee’s room and sexually assaulted.

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Tahir, who was granted asylum on May 6, says he reported the incident to a staff member, but no action was taken. Instead, staff members told him that he was “very visible,” and advised him to “keep yourself down.”

“I always just keep quiet,” Tahir told VICE News. “I always focus on my stuff. And the officer, instead of taking any action, he’s saying to me you have to keep down. For what? What did I do? Did I take off my shirt? Have I invited anyone in my room? Did I ever provoke anyone to do anything to me?”

Maajid, 24, came to the UK as an English language student from Pakistan, where his family disowned him for being gay. His lawyer told him that he had a strong case for asylum, but he was held in a detention center for three weeks and then community accommodation for a further six months while he waited for the Home Office to make a decision on his application.

Maajid says he was bullied and threatened with violence during his time in the G4S-run community accommodation — a type of non-secure housing provided by private contractors to asylum seekers, who are not allowed to work while they await the outcome of the asylum claim.

From the end of February until mid-July, Maajid shared a room in Doncaster in northern England with a Muslim roommate and was bullied by other asylum seekers. He says his mental state deteriorated during this period as he was threatened with violence and regularly slept in the kitchen.

“I put a picture of Zayn Malik in my room,” he told VICE News, referring to the One Direction singer. “Just a picture! And [my roommate] said if you put this picture, I can’t pray. Then he tried to punch me.”

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Maajid was prescribed sedative antidepressants for anxiety and depression throughout this period.

In a recent letter recommending Maajid for priority housing owing to mental health symptoms, his doctor said that he had been “suffering a lot of stress and anxiety symptoms as well as depression,” some stemming from “homophobic abuse” he had received in Doncaster and concern of recurring abuse in Sheffield.

Maajid’s application for asylum was accepted on August 15.

UKLGIG Executive Director Paul Dillane said Tahir and Maajid’s experiences “are all too familiar to our organization where we regularly receive complaints of bullying, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and even sexual harassment in immigration detention centers and community accommodation.”

Dillane emphasized that, “the Home Office must ensure that LGBTI people whose lives are at risk are granted refugee protection, but also that they are treated with dignity and respect during the asylum process.”

A Home Office spokesperson told VICE News that, “the UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and applications are considered carefully in line with the immigration rules before a decision is made.”

Addressing alleged instances of abuse, the spokesperson said, “it is totally unacceptable for any individual to be subject to bullying, verbal abuse or threats of violence because of their gender or sexual orientation and we expect all complaints to be dealt with to the highest standards by our staff and service providers.”

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A G4S spokesperson acknowledged that Maajid made complaints to staff.

“We work hard to ensure the safety and well-being of asylum seekers in our care,” the G4S spokesperson said. “We have a zero tolerance policy towards abuse of any kind, and we take all complaints very seriously. There is a robust process in place to deal with any issues raised by service users. In this case, no complaints of abuse regarding sexual orientation were made to G4S by the individual concerned.”

A GEO UK spokesperson told VICE News that the contractor no longer operates the Harmondsworth immigration removal center, but said, “prejudice would not be tolerated in any form by or against anyone.” The spokesperson insisted that the center had “a very good record in its support for LGBT detainees.”

“There were various channels through which a LGBT detainee could register complaints or concerns about the conduct of other detainees (or for that matter about a member of staff failing to act on a complaint),” the GEO UK spokesperson said.

In 2010, asylum seekers won the right not to be deported from the UK if they would be persecuted in their home country because of their sexual identity.

An investigation into the interviews process for LGBT detainees by the office of the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published last week found that more than ten percent of Home Office interviews included “intrusive or unsatisfactory” questions about their sex lives.

https://news.vice.com/article/lgbt-asylum-seekers-say-they-face-homophobic-abuse-in-uk-detention-centers

 

Gay rights should be centre of UK’s relations with Commonwealth

Former Foreign Secretary says Britain must use its influence with Commonwealth to end ‘shocking’ anti-gay laws

 

By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the city's 'unique constitutional framework has worked well'Britain must make defending the rights of gay and lesbian people a key plank of its relations with other Commonwealth countries, the former Foreign Secretary William Hague has insisted.
He said it was “shocking” that homosexuality is still illegal many countries with historic ties to the UK and argued that Britain must use what influence it has to press for change.
His comments came as he addressed a reception in Parliament at which the annual PinkNews awards were presented.
Mr Hague, who is leaving the Commons at the next election, said he was proud of Britain’s record on the issue during his four years as Foreign Secretary including putting pressure on countries such as Uganda over draconian new anti-homosexuality laws.
But he said more must be done and accused countries which ban homosexual acts of breaking international law.
“While we are making progress in Britain and elsewhere, the situation in many countries in the world is not only difficult, it is actually worsening,” he said.
“It is completely incompatible with international human rights laws to make illegal consenting same-sex relations and to deny rights to people on the basis of their sexuality.”
Homosexual acts are classed as a criminal offence in around 80 countries and territories around the world including many former British colonies.
“One of my last acts as Foreign Secretary was to write to the Commonwealth Secretary General urging him to use his position to urge member states to live up to their responsibilities to promote the rights of their LGBT citizens,” he said.
“It is shocking that homosexuality is still illegal in so many member states and it must be an important part of our relations with those countries to persuade them to do better.”
Mr Hague presented a “peer of the year” award to Lord Fowler, who served as Health Secretary under Margaret Thatcher for his work combating HIV and Aids.
Speaking at a dinner following the awards, a serving Church of England bishop said he was “ashamed” of the church’s record on gay rights.
The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham said the world would be a better place if Christians spent less time obsessing about the “minutiae of the Book of Leviticus”, which contains passages condemning homosexuality.
Speaking as he prepared to say grace before the meal, he told guests: “I want to say how honoured and privileged I felt to be here tonight knowing that the institution that I represent has not got a glorious record in terms of its dealings with its own LGBT people and the community at large.
“I am ashamed and I need to say that.”
Quoting a passage from the book of Micah, he added: “Doing justice, loving mercy walking humbly with God – if it was about that rather than some of the minutiae of the Book of Leviticus, perhaps the world would be a better place.
“And I look forward to a day when frankly the institution I represent, the Church of England, would stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.”
He added: “Take it from me, the day will come when I promise that faith communities in this country will be very much more part of the solution than the problem.”
Benjamin Cohen, publisher of PinkNews said: “We were delighted when William Hague offered to use the PinkNews Awards to make his first major speech on gay rights.
“The Foreign Office under his leadership radically altered its approach to LGBT issues placing gay rights at the heart of its human rights agenda.
“Hague is a perfect example of a politician on a journey when it comes to gay rights – from the party leader who opposed the repeal of Section 28, to one of the proud sponsors of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act.”
“The bishop spoke with honesty and from the heart, revealing the shame that he feels for the way that the Church of England has dealt with the issue of homosexuality.
“We look forward to the day when the bishop’s views are not a rarity in the world’s great religions and instead before part of the mainstream reality.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11199047/Gay-rights-should-be-centre-of-UKs-relations-with-Commonwealth-William-Hague.html

UK gvmt tells faith-based schools they must promote gay ‘rights’

Thaddeus Baklinski, LifeSiteNews.com, Nov, 3, 2014

do_not_tolerate_intoleranceEducation Secretary Nicky Morgan has informed UK faith-based schools that if they don’t comply with new rules requiring them to “actively promote British values,” including teaching tolerance of homosexuality, they could face closure.

“Schools should broaden horizons, not close minds, and should encourage pupils to respect other people even if they do not agree with them. I should have thought this is a principle with which the vast majority of people would agree,” said Morgan.

Morgan is on record for having voted against same-sex “marriage,” but has since said she changed her mind about the issue.

The new rules introduced by the Department of Education give inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) power to downgrade the ratings of, or even close, schools that do not conform to the Equality Act.

So the question now is will the Ulster Assembly enact this for faith schools in Northern Ireland – on June 13, 2013 Gary Spedding wrote:

…In Northern Ireland, there is already curriculum covering relationship and sex education, but, difficulty comes in the lack of consistent implementation. This must be addressed urgently by the Education Minister, John O’Dowd. I hope that he and indeed many others will share in the opinion, that implementing PSHE and RSE (Relationship and Sex Education) as compulsory topics of study in the NI curriculum would be an exceptionally positive initial step forward for Northern Ireland…

 

The Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland wrote:

…Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGB&T) young people are a vulnerable group in our society. The Department of Education has an obligation to ensure that these young people are not discriminated against and to actively promote equality of opportunity for them.

Educational structures in Northern Ireland are inherently and systemically heterosexist institutions. By heterosexist we mean that to be heterosexual is not simply considered as more common than same-sex attracted but as normal, correct and morally superior…We now face the absurd anomaly that an LGB&T sixteen-year old with a part time job is better protected in their place of employment than in their place of education.Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools

 

Further reading:

 

Do we need more sex education?

sex-ed-1 sex-ed-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to PETER HITCHENS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY in March 2010, sex education does not work and it is a ‘lefties’ plot against society and the family.; and Tory MP for Shipley, Yorkshire, Philip Davies, states it is a parent’s job to discuss sex education with their child not a schools!
So what does Sex and Relationship education aim to do:

SRE aims to equip children and young people with the information, skills and values they need to have safe, fulfilling and enjoyable relationships and to take responsibility for their sexual health and well-being.
SRE aims to contribute to behaviour change, including reducing unprotected and unwanted sex, and reducingsex-ed-3 harmful behaviour, including sexual offences such as assault and abuse

I t would seem therefore that in itself, SRE cannot do what the ‘government’ wants i.e. reduce unwanted pregnancies and also reduce sexually transmitted diseases. If society wishes this to happen then a radical change in all of our attitudes needs to take place. We must be open with our children and teenagers, and lead by example. How can we possibly ask children and teenagers to not explore their sexuality in a responsible way if we have government ministers and other MPs jumping in and out of other peoples beds, and having sex with people who they are not in a relationship with – and this includes paid for sex.

A healthy sexual appetite is part being human, but being responsible in how we mane it comes with education and openess.

sex-ed-4

Further reading:

Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn calls people who try to stop bullying of gay youth 'diversity Nazis'

British columnist claims Woman and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan is ‘inadequate’

Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, has been accused of affiliating with 'diversity Nazis'.

The Daily Mail’s notorious columnist Richard Littlejohn has written an article claiming those who try to stop bullying of gay teens are ‘diversity Nazis’.

The 60-year-old has criticized Education Secretary Nicky Morgan for her decision to pledge £2 million to fight homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in British schools.

Describing it as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘drivel’, Littlejohn claimed this is proof that Morgan is too ‘inadequate’ to do her job.

He referred to an Ofsted report, the official UK body that monitors schools, that said a village school in Cumbria was ‘inadequate’ following a series of racist and homophobic comments made by pupils.

Governors and staff defended the school, claiming it was based on only one incident of a child describing another as gay. Ofsted stands by their report, repeating their decision was based on many incidents of bullying.

‘A pound to a penny this ludicrous “task force” concludes that such prejudice and bullying is widespread, even where it doesn’t exist,’ Littlejohn rants in his column today (31 October).

‘How many more innocent children will be smeared as ‘bigots’, how many more schools will be forced out of business in pursuit of dogmatic political purity?

‘Former Education Secretary, Michael Gove tried to kill off this kind of drivel.

‘Unfortunately, his successor Nicky Morgan is desperate to ingratiate herself with the “diversity” Nazis who think the purpose of schools is social engineering, not education.

‘Sadly, we can only conclude that as a minister, Morgan is — what’s the word? — oh, yes: inadequate.’

In Stonewall’s latest report on homophobic bullying, they found 99% of teens surveyed had heard ‘gay’ being used in a negative way and over half had said they had been targeted for bullying over their sexuality.

In December 2012, Littlejohn wrote a column condemning transgender teacher Lucy Meadows. He claimed she would have a ‘devastating effect’ on the children after her transition.

Three months later, after her suicide, the coroner said Littlejohn ‘sought to ridicule and humiliate’ her.

Over 240,000 signed a petition calling on The Daily Mail to sack Littlejohn, but it was unsuccessful.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/daily-mails-richard-littlejohn-calls-people-who-try-stop-bullying-gay-youth-diversity-nazis3#sthash.LDQYeHTn.dpuf

Kiev's oldest cinema burned down during gay film

Unknown man threw a smoke grenade into the audience

The Zhovten cinema in Kiev burned for five hours.

Photo via Facebook

The oldest cinema in the Ukranian capital went up in flames on Wednesday night during the screening of a LGBTI film after a smoke grenade was thrown into the audience.

The fire broke out at 21:41 and raged for five hours until it was put out by 22 fire department units, according to the State Emergency Service.

None of the 100 people at the screening were hurt, but the Zhovten cinema, built in 1931, was badly damaged.

‘The film had been playing for 20 minutes already when people in back rows shouted: “Smoke!”‘ festival coordinator Aleksey Chaschin said.

Filmgoer Yevhen Zelman wrote on Facebook that an unknown man tossed an ‘incendiary smoke grenade’ into the audience.

He said people started to run but the emergency exits were locked and the cashiers and security guards did not know how to use the fire extinguishers.

Alexei Blyuminov wrote on Facebook that the reason for the arson attack was obvious considering an LGBTI film was showing.

‘In a country, where street Nazis have become police officers, no one will investigate a crime, committed by the far-right. One hand washes the other,’ he said.

The French film Les Nuits d’été (Summer Nights) was showing as part of an LGBTI program at the Molodist youth film festival.

Other said the attack was caused by an ongoing legal dispute between the cinema and the building owners, who want to evict them.

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko promised the cinema would be rebuilt.

‘The arson of the premise, which became a subject of debate and legal battles in recent years, can’t be ruled out. We won’t allow Zhovten, which became a symbol of intellectual cinema among the moviegoers in the capital, to be taken away from us,’ he said.

Kiev Pride was cancelled in July for fear of attacks.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/kievs-oldest-cinema-burned-down-during-gay-film311014#sthash.sp7eqNv8.dpuf