Theresa May’s Government stands accused of persecuting LBGTI asylum seekers by deporting them to homophobic countries with the advice to “act straight”.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry used PMQs to say the Home Office deported gay people to countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Cameroon and told them to deny themselves an openly LGBT life.
The SNP called on the PM to offer assurances this would never happen again.
Cherry told the Commons: “We can all agree that no one should ever be persecuted on account of their sexuality. Last week, at the Pink News awards, the Prime Minister said that we had come a long way on LGBT+ rights, but there is still much more to do.
“Can I ask her to start that remaining work today by promising that never again will the Home Office deport LGBT asylum seekers to countries where they are likely to be persecuted with the instruction that they ‘pretend to be straight’.”
May said the Home Office treated cases with “the sensitivity that is appropriate” but did not answer Cherry’s question directly.
“This is an issue we take seriously,” she said. “Indeed, I think I am right in saying that Conservative government that actually changed the rules on asylum seeking to introduce the category of those who could face persecution in their country of origin because of their sexuality.
“I’m pleased that was able to be done and I’m sure that the Home Office treats all these cases, and I want them to treat all these cases, with the sensitivity that is appropriate.”
The Government will stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to flee a country because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at a proven risk – but it is not clear what advice is being offered to gay people who face deportation.
Heather Barr, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian earlier this year: “The Home Office’s approach seems to be to tell asylum seekers, ’Pretend you’re straight, move to Kabul and best of luck.
“Living a life where you are forced to lie every day about a key part of your identity, and live in constant fear of being found out and harassed, prosecuted or attacked, is exactly the kind of persecution asylum laws are supposed to prevent.”
Cherry, herself a gay woman, tweeted that Home Secretary Amber Rudd has committed to look at the issue.