No Pride in Detention is Rainbow Migration’s latest campaign looking to address the injustices faced by LGBTQI+ people in immigration detention in the UK. The charity is working in coalition with other prominent LGBTQI+ organisations including Stonewall and Mermaids UK, to lobby for an end in immigration detention for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers who are at an increased risk of suffering further trauma when held indefinitely in prison-like detention centres.
The campaign also calls for policy-makers to put in place a cap of 28 days as the maximum time period any immigrant detained by the home office. A specified limit of detention period is especially necessary for the unspecified number of LGBTQI+ individuals seeking asylum in the UK who are required to “prove” their secual orientation or gender identity (an already difficult task) while being detained in environments that are often hostile to marginalised gender and sexual identities.
In the following interview, AZ spoke to Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration who explains more about the organisation and ways in which the wider LGBTQI+ community can support ‘No Pride in Detention’.
How was Rainbow Migration founded?
We started as a group of same sex couples and their lawyers in 1993, where these couples wanted to stay in the UK together, but they couldn’t because same sex relationships weren’t recognised…One of the things I’m most proud of [about] working for this organisation is the fact that the first positive recognition of same sex relationships in UK law actually came in ithe immigration policy in 1997 under the unmarried partners concession. Since that time, as we’ve seen more and more equality for LGBTQI+ people, our focus has shifted more to people seeking asylum.
What are some of the injustices faced by LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in the UK?
In the UK the immigration system is extremely complex, and it’s difficult for anybody who is subjected to it or has to navigate it. Now, if you are LGBTQI+ and you’re seeking asylum, there are additional hurdles, for example, to prove that you need refugee status or refugee protection in this country. You have to prove that you’re LGBTQI+, just imagine having to do that- it’s extremely difficult.
[They] often don’t have any evidence to show other than their own words or their own story. So they have to write about and talk about something that’s extremely personal and something they may never have spoken about before to a complete stranger. And sadly, we see too many people who are refused because there’s simply disbelief and this could be for example, because of the use of stereotypes by this government. It can also be because [the Home Office] expects too much evidence before they believe somebody’s case. And a really troubling thing is the fact that under the nationality and borders act, they have raised what’s called the ‘standard of proof’ in this means that before being accepted as being LGBTQI+ people are going to have to produce even more evidence to prove something that’s extremely difficult to do. One of the other things that troubles me at the present time is that the nationality and borders act is also creating two categories of refugees. if you’ve come overland through Europe or if you don’t claim asylum immediately, then you could be classed as a category two refugee. This is quite unfair to LGBTQ+ people because a lot of people don’t know that you can get refugee status on those grounds. Most people think that refugee status is only for people fleeing war or political persecution… If they are then successfully recognised as a [category 2] refugee they will only be allowed to stay in this country for two and a half years before having to reapply for that status. And then again, two and a half years after that, and again, two and a half years that. It’s really hard to imagine how somebody can rebuild their life with that burden of knowing the future isn’t secure and that the government might decide that they want to send them back.
Persecution towards LGBTQI+ people can come from all levels. It can come from the government , it can come from the police, it can come from the hands of your own community where you live or your family even and that’s not going to be resolved in the space of three and a half years. So it’s just really going to traumatise them and put them under a lot of mental strain by not providing protection from the outset.
We’re also particularly worried about the Rwanda [deportation] deal because it’s not safe for LGBTQI+ people… The UK government’s assessment of the deal found that LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda are denied access to housing, employment and health services, and that they’re unable to seek protection from the courts police and that the lawyers are can be homophobic or refuse to take on LGBTQI+cases. This is a really scandalous deal and it’s something that we are going to continue campaigning against.
What has the response to ‘No Pride in Detention’ been like so far, in the queer community and in politics?
We’ve been focusing so far on building support from individuals for the campaign. Politically, I can say that we have had some interest in opposition MPs and because we’ve been part of previous campaigns for a time limit on immigration detention, we know there is support for that from MPs across political parties. We’re hopeful we can carry on building that and broadening that support.
We’ve had great support from the public, including many LGBTQI plus people who’ve added their name to their campaign and we’re hoping to reach more people over this summer as different Pride celebrations and protests take place. We’ve also seen great support from LGBTQI+ organisations, from huge national charities like Stonewall to local organisations, such as Oldham pride. I’m really excited that this network is growing and all these organisations are going to work together to end LGBTQI+ migrant detention once and for all.
How can people in the AZ community help to support and amplify the campaign?
For now, we’re asking individuals to add their name to our call for an end LGBTQI+ detention and to ask their friends and family to do the same. Please go to our website or to our social media channels and click on the link to add your name. If you’re connected to an organisation, or group or venue, please also consider joining the campaign as a supporting organisation. f people add their name to the campaign, they can also opt in to hear more about how the campaign progresses and keep you involved every step of the way.