No Safe Refuge for LBQTI+ women in immigration detention

 

“Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons is exacerbated in situations of deprivation of liberty… in detention facilities there is usually a strict hierarchy, and that those at the bottom of the hierarchy, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, typically suffer double or triple discrimination.”

 

Those are the words of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in their 2016 annual report.  

 

At UKLGIG, we have heard many harrowing stories from LBQTI+ women about intimidation, discrimination, harassment and violence they have experienced while in detention from both other detainees and detention centre staff.

 

Our joint report with Stonewall, No Safe Refuge, gathered testimony from LBTQI+ women who have been in immigration detention.

 

“I didn’t feel safe. People called me names and said not nice things to me. I just felt like this is the place where they may not harm you directly but will point fingers and say things. That’s why I just kept to myself.” - Gasha, Cameroonian asylum seeker.

 

“The staff looked at me like I was a disease.” - Brianna, Jamaican asylum seeker.

 

Detention also has long-term effects on the mental and physical health of LBTQI+ women who are detained.

 

“I get flashbacks of exactly what happened in Uganda. I get bad nightmares. When I was in detention I even heard voices of this man that raped me who would try to tell me I am worthless. I have tried twice to take an overdose when I was at detention because I couldn’t take it anymore.”  - Dembe, Ugandan asylum seeker.

 

To make matters worse, being in detention also makes it harder for LBQTI+ women to pursue their asylum claims fairly. The conditions and atmosphere in detention centres often forces LBTQI+ women into the closet and lack of contact with the outside world and resources inside the centres makes it hard for them to ‘prove’ their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

“It felt like I was deprived of getting this evidence together, which is the reasons why actually I had my refusal. The first reason they gave was ‘you couldn’t get your statement from your partner’ but how am I going to do this when you’ve detained me?” - Miremba, Ugandan asylum seeker.

 

We urge the UK government to end the detention of all LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum and to implement a time limit for all detainees. The current system should also be reformed with the introduction of community based alternatives to detention.

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