Opinion | 'Brexit will only make life harder and more hostile for LGBTQ asylum seekers in the UK'

LGBTQ asylum seekers are likely to have their right reduced even further after Britain leaves the EU, writes Holly Barrow.


This article appears in Attitude's September Style issue, available to download and to order globally now.

Three years have passed since the referendum that brought about Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union.

Predictions on trade, employment and business continue to dominate the Brexit narrative. But a factor often overlooked is the threat to human rights legislation, and particularly LGBTQ rights.

Despite the progress made, transgender, non-binary and intersex individuals already face disproportionate levels of discrimination. Recent reports showing a spike in hate crime towards non-gender-conforming individuals seem reflective of the worldwide rise of Far-Right movements.

Research conducted by Stonewall in 2018 analysed the experiences of more than 800 trans and non-binary people living in the UK and revealed the extent of abuse and antagonism they endure.

In 2017, an average of two in every five trans people experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity while one in eight trans employees, on average, were physically attacked by colleagues or customers.

Along with these alarming statistics, Stonewall highlighted the danger of the frequent media stigmatisation of trans individuals, suggesting how, historically, media outlets which “sensationalise and misrepresent” the reality of trans individuals have played a role in stunting the progression of LGBTQ rights.

What makes such regressive attitudes so pertinent in the wake of Brexit is the frightening consequence that leaving the EU could have on human-rights legislation and how this may add fuel to the fire.

Upon Britain’s departure, LGBTQ people will no longer be granted the reassurance of relying on EU law as a safety net to uphold non-discriminatory rights. Not only could Brexit leave LGBTQ British citizens exposed to further discrimination, it also threatens additional anxieties for some of the most vulnerable members of society: transgender individuals seeking asylum in the UK.

In addition to stripping essential equality laws such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is set to become redundant in the UK, the government has announced plans to implement an increasingly restrictive immigration policy.

This leaves the odds stacked against LGBTQ asylum seekers and begs the question: will the Home Office guarantee safety and refuge to those fleeing persecution in their home countries when the UK government is yet to establish reformed equality policies for its own citizens?

The current asylum process fails to protect many LGBTQ applicants, with clear disregard towards the specific needs of trans applicants.

Many transgender asylum seekers are harassed and intimidated by fellow detainees, as well as by staff. There is also consistent mis-gendering by some interviewing off icers who accuse trans applicants of faking their gender identity.

Attempting to assess an applicant’s claim by assembling “evidence” of their sexual orientation or gender identity seems intentionally inconsiderate when many have had to suppress their identity to remain safe.

A government which remains complacent about the exploitation of LGBTQ asylum seekers is one that fails to instil hope for justice in a post-Brexit era. Parliament must establish reformed human rights legislation now to ensure the safety of those who need it the most, as well as British LGBTQ citizens.

Holly Barrow is a political correspondent and a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of immigration lawyers offering free advice and support for asylum seekers and victims of abuse.