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Sussex research reveals injustices faced by LGBTIQ+ asylum claimants

'Angel' who was interviewed in the University of Sussex's film about the work of the SOGICA team

Dr Moira Dustin from the SOGICA team in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology

A team of researchers in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology are working on a project to report on the often harrowing experiences of people who claim asylum in the UK and elsewhere for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identity. The SOGICA team (sexual orientation and gender identity-based claims of asylum) is researching the experiences of these asylum claimants in the UK, Germany and Italy. They’re led by Professor Nuno Ferreira and include Dr Moira Dustin, Dr Carmelo Danisi and Dr Nina Held.

To help illustrate the team’s research, the University of Sussex has produced a powerful film with Angel, a woman who fled Zimbabwe after she was raped and beaten for being a lesbian.  Now in the UK, Angel faced tough questioning by Home Office officials as she struggled to prove that she was a lesbian – a fact she had spent years trying to hide in Zimbabwe. Angel has now won her claim. Watch the film here.

The powerful film was directed and produced by videographers Jayne Rowlands and Flavio Ferrari who work in the External Relations division at the University. They have also made further films with two other asylum claimants which will be published soon, all tied together with the theme of #IAmWhoISayIAm, reflecting individuals’ struggle to prove their identity.

Angel’s story has featured prominently on the BBC news home page this week and has been widely shared on social media. Read the BBC story including an interview with Dr Moira Dustin here “How do I convince the Home Office I’m a lesbian?” here.

Moira spoke to the BBC about the SOGICA team’s research. She discussed Home Office statistics which indicate worsening prospects for asylum claimants making a bid for UK protection on the basis of sexual orientation. Between 2015 and 2018, the refusal rate for sexuality-based asylum claims increased from 61% to 71%. Simultaneously, the number of successful appeals rose. The figures show that judges overturned 38% of refusal decisions in 2018 compared to 32% in 2015.

Moira told the BBC:

"It suggests that more and more initial decisions are flawed or recognised as flawed.  There are specific reasons why LGB asylum claims are often initially refused and claimants have to go to appeal, including the difficulty that people fleeing homophobia will have in opening up to officials immediately upon arrival, and the problems that they inevitably experience mustering the kind of concrete evidence the Home Office requires.”

The SOGICA team will publish their full findings in coming months.

By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Friday, 28 February 2020