Investigating the British asylum system for lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum-seekers: Theoretical and empirical perspectives on fairness

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The entitlement of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals to claim asylum on the basis of their sexual identities has been a contentious matter, as sexual identity was not a ground of claim explicitly recognised under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom (UK) has incrementally recognised the ability of LGB asylum-seekers to claim such protection over the last twenty years.1 This thesis undertakes a socio-legal investigation of the British asylum system from the perspective of LGB asylum-seekers. Using evaluation theory, it examines the fairness with which LGB asylum claims are treated in the UK, and the standards to which they are entitled. As the starting point, this thesis explores the legitimacy of using fairness as its standard, and examines the content of this standard. From this, it advances ‘structural principles’ that are used to examine the British asylum system since the UK Supreme Court’s seminal decision in HJ (Iran). Investigating the British asylum system through the framework provided by the structural principles is supported by qualitative data obtained from interviews conducted with legal practitioners, activists, academics, decision-makers and asylum-seekers, and from replies to the Freedom of Information requests addressed to the Home Office. This has helped to conduct a substantial analysis of the British asylum system, as experienced by LGB asylum-seekers today. It offers tangible praise, critique and recommendations with respect to their treatment regarding matters of procedural fairness, i.e., that relating to the asylum process itself, and substantive fairness, i.e., matters pertaining to the outcome of the claim for protection. This thesis submits that intersectionality and the diversity of sexual identity should be at the core of an asylum system that deals fairly with LGB claims for asylum in the UK. LGB asylum-seekers require access to an asylum system that is sensitive and empathetic to their experiences, and which avoids essentialising sexual identities and conducting ‘single-axis’ analyses. The system must operate with flexibility, in line with the unique needs and experiences of LGB asylum-seekers, and with respect for their fundamental rights.


Relevant Evidence Summaries

The evidence was reviewed and included in the following summaries: 

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What works to support LGBTQ refugees?

As yet, there are no published outcome evaluations of programs or practices specifically for LGBTQ refugees. Existing best practice recommendations are based on stakeholder consensus. ▪ Three separate stakeholder consensus reports all yield similar recommendations for addressing the unique needs of this population. All recommendations revolve around creating a “safe space” through specific practices. Evidence […]

About this study

AGE: Adults

DIRECTION OF EVIDENCE: No evidence about impact



HOST COUNTRY: United Kingdom


OUTCOME AREA: Legal Status



TYPE OF STUDY: Suggestive evidence