Asylum seekers – or, as I much refer to say, refugees. I know it’s not strictly accurate, but the British press has so demonised “Asylum Seekers” that it has become a convenient avoidant term. We use asylum seekers to imply fakers and slackers coming here to steals our monies and our jobz while being too lazy to work. Yeah, whatever. Call them refugees – call them what they are – people desperately fleeing from persecution. People fleeing from oppression, persecution, torture and death. People who have lost everything and are running for their lives. At least be HONEST about the hell you want to throw these people to!
Refugees and their rights are very much something GBLT people need to be interested and involved in. Because they are often our brothers and sisters. We know that, in much of the world, persecution of GBLT people is extreme to the point of genocide. The only reason it isn’t named as such is because the powers that be are often rather content with our destruction and are afraid of offending the religious lobby by acknowledging our persecution to such a degree. In fact, the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity, asserting that GBLT people should have human rights and not be persecuted, had to be reduced to a “gesture” declaration with numerous voices speaking against it (including the Holy See, no surprises there, and considerable initial opposition from the US) and a 57 nation bloc supporting a counter-declaration declaring the opposite – that we don’t have and aren’t worthy of human rights.
Homosexuality is illegal in about 70 countries in the world. In 77 nations we can be prosecuted for having sex, for not being virgins, for not living a lie. Most of these prosecutions come with a prison sentence (and GBLT people in prison are amongst the most vulnerable there are). At least 27 of these can be sentences of 10 years or more. At least a further 8 nations will execute gay people. And that number is, shockingly, growing.
And this tells not even half the story. On paper, Iraq legalises homosexuality, yet it is one of the worst places in the world to be GBLT as a result of the occupation and rising religious control. South Africa not only legalises homosexuality but also outlaws all anti-gay discrimination AND recognises same-sex marriage. Yet persecution, including “corrective rape” is a horrendous problem and is rarely addressed by the authorities. On paper Egypt outlaws homosexuality with a prison sentence up to 3 years – but that doesn’t cover the repeated instances of torture inflicted on GBLT people.
In fact, one of the recurring problems of GBLT persecution is not only legal persecution by the state, but state indifference to persecution, state refusal to protect GBLT people from attacks, violence, rape, torture and killing. Often large organisations, communities and especially churches are ready and eager to encourage the persecution
This makes Asylum vital to these GBLT people. While we fight for the rights to be treated as full and equal citizens and to cling to what rights we have managed to obtain (vitally important) our GBLT siblings across the globe fight to exist, fight to live, fight just to be. They live in countries where even the most minimal tolerance is too much to ask and is fiercely denied. To these people the only sanctuary available is to flee and to be sheltered in a nation that will not see them dead or imprisoned for the audacious crime of existing.
But, very depressingly but unsurprisingly, we are not welcoming to GBLT people seeking safety. Amnesty international has decried the EU sending refugees back to countries where they will be tortured. Because accepting promises as a reasonable precaution would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic – to expect a torturer to play fair, especially since we hardly check up after wards, is ridiculous to the point of enraging – it is clear indifference on our part to allow this to continue. The torturer’s “promise” gives us sufficient excuse to turn a blind eye.
The UK has been deporting gay asylum seekers for years – under the hollow excuse that if they are “discreet” they will be safe… so long as they stay in hiding they may escape persecution. Never mind the societal pressures to marry and have a family that make such “discretion” impossible. Never mind the self-destruction that being closeted brings. Never mind that even when we are discreet, our sexualities can still be discovered, can still be exposed. Under the cover of “discretion” we have deported gay people to countries like Jamaica, Iraq and even Iran.
Our record with the protection of gay refugees is shameful – with a refusal rate that dwarfs even the shamefully high refusal rate we have with non-gay refugees. The ignorance, denial of GBLT people as being GBLT, the refusal to accept the state of GBLT persecution and the insistence that the closet solves all ills means we offer no sanctuary to even the most brutally oppressed GBLT people around the world. Frankly this whole report is enough to make me sick, despite having seen it up close, bringing it home like this -the ignorance, the homophobia, the privilege, the sheer indifference to the suffering is a matter for pure rage.
It should also come as no surprise that marginalised bodies – women, ethnic minorities and GBLT people are among those most likely to suffer under this negligence. Devalued both by the persecutor and by the country of supposed safety, the suffering of these bodies is too often ignored. This is a true intersectionality moment – a moment when we should come together and recognise that those of us who society devalues are the most at risk here. These are the most at risk of persecution abroad and indifference at home and the most in need of help.
The least we can offer these people is safety. It is so little to ask – and we are failing them.