Home Office failing LGBTQI+ people in asylum accommodation

Report finds Home Office system for providing accommodation to people seeking asylum is inadequate to ‘take proper account of the needs of LGBTQI+ individuals’.

An independent inspection of the Home Office’s management of asylum accommodation has found that the Home Office is not giving any choice to LGBTQI+ people about the accommodation in which they are placed if they are claiming asylum, leaving them vulnerable to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and abuse from housemates.

The inspection also found that the Home Office relies on individuals to tell their housing provider if someone bullied or assaulted them, and raised NGO concerns that the Home Office is not proactively seeking to ensure the safety LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum.  The inspection, by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, also criticised the Home Office for appearing ‘to ignore the fact that the individual may not feel able to complain’.

Leila Zadeh, Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), said,

“The Home Office is ignoring the reality that LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum face harassment and abuse in shared asylum accommodation. We have seen many LGBTQI+ people who have been verbally abused, sexually assaulted and humiliated by their housemates.

Housing providers have often ignored or dismissed complaints from LGBTQI+ people who are seeking asylum. We have also heard of cases where housing providers have told LGBTQI+ tenants not to report hate incidents to the police.

The result is that LGBTQI+ people can remain in abusive environments for the duration of their asylum claims, which can take months or years. Some LGBTQI+ people choose homelessness rather than stay in unsafe housing. Others enter exploitative situations, for example exchanging sex for a roof over their heads.

LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum should be offered the choice of single accommodation so they do not have to risk their personal safety”.

Zadeh also explained that LGBTQI+ people should not be placed in asylum accommodation in areas of the country that do not have an established LGBTQI+ community or LGBTQI+ organisations.

“LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum very often do not feel they can live openly – especially in shared accommodation – and often rely on LGBTQI+ organisations as safe places to go and talk, make friends and access specialist support or services. If an LGBTQI+ person is obliged to live far away from such organisations, they can become very isolated and feel forced back into the closet”.

In its response to the Chief Inspector’s report, the Home Office has said,

“The Department does not believe that there is any tension between the ‘no-choice’ asylum accommodation policy and our duty to take account of the needs of vulnerable individuals. Under our existing policy, a person’s individual circumstances, including any particular vulnerabilities, are taken into consideration when accommodation is allocated. However, this does not extend to allowing individuals to choose where that suitable and appropriate accommodation should be located”.

An inspection of the Home Office’s management of asylum accommodation provision was published on 20 November 2018 and is available to download from the government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-inspection-of-the-home-offices-management-of-asylum-accommodation-provision

The Home Office response was also published on 20 November and is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/response-to-a-report-on-a-inspection-of-asylum-accommodation

Home Office ‘experimental statistics’ released in November 2017 suggest that around 6% of all asylum applications include sexual orientation as a basis for the claim. Claims on the basis of gender identity were not included in these statistics.

UKLGIG has been supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum process since 2003 providing psychosocial support, legal advice and information, and advocate for changes in government policy and practice.