Report highlights challenges facing LGBT asylum seekers

A new report titled The Voice: Life experiences of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa delves deep into plights of LGBTI migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The study was conducted and released by human rights NGO Access Chapter 2, who between October and November 2018, questioned and tested 50 adult LGBTI migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The research revealed that many of these asylum seekers are halted from going through the proper channels due to the poor service of South Africa’s Home Affairs Department and Refugee Reception Centres.

Of the of 21 gay men, 10 lesbian women, 15 bisexual people, and 4 transgender persons, 56% reported not feeling safe at the centres, with some experiencing hate crime incidents outside and inside the facilities.

Shockingly, 86% of the respondents said they’d been asked to “prove” their sexual orientation by officials at the refugee centres. The report highlights that this is often a difficult thing to do and is often the basis of their application being rejected.

“The majority of the participants felt intimated and personally violated by being asked to bring evidence of their sexuality which is practically impossible to do,” says the report.

“Furthermore, participants reported that the interview process for legal documents is traumatising intimidating and sometimes humiliating, making it difficult to return for an appeal process”.

Just recently, Kenyan LGBT activist George Barasa was refused asylum because officials concluded in a stunningly inept report that he was lying about his sexuality. Despite being a well-known human rights and gay rights activist.

“We are treated like criminals,” Barasa told MambaOnline. “They shamelessly admit that they are xenophobic. This is something that I go through all the time from Department of Home Affairs officials. I also face homophobia from other refugees from other countries that are homophobic”.

Access Chapter 2 said there is a pressing need for stakeholders to work together to resolve the problems endured by physically and psychologically vulnerable LGBT migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The report also revealed the deplorable irony in which 96% of the respondents chose South Africa as a destination because of the legal and constitutional protections it is meant to offer.

A key recommendation in the report is for state officials to be sensitised and trained on servicing LGBTI applicants and to be held accountable for their actions.

“The state’s obligation to protect, promote and fulfill the human rights obligation of people on the basis of race, origin, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, amongst others, must be upheld with integrity and dignity to ensure that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers’ rights are not compromised,” said the organisation.