What is an asylum seeker? What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

We usually use the term ‘asylum seeker’ to refer to someone who has applied for asylum in another country. If their application is unsuccessful, they might be referred to as a ‘failed asylum seeker’. If their application is approved they are given ‘refugee status’ and we refer to them as ‘refugees’.

What does LGBT+ stand for?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, other

How many people a year apply for asylum in the UK on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity?

The Home Office does not publish these figures. An informed guess is that about 7% of the roughly 30, 000 annual asylum applications are on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, giving a number of around 2, 100 applicants per year.

What proportion of them are successful?

According to a Home Office report in November 2018, the rate of acceptance (before appeal) fell from 39% in 2015 to only 22% in 2017. About 34% of people who appealed and who took their cases to an Asylum Tribunal were later successful. There is some evidence that the proportion of successful appeals has been rising since 2017, which suggests that the initial decision to reject the application was unsound.

How do you help asylum seekers with their legal cases?

We are not lawyers and we are not allowed to offer legal advice. However, we can put people in touch with lawyers and direct them to other sources of relevant support.

We do our best to encourage the asylum seekers we work with to feel confident to tell their story and present their case as effectively as possible. In some circumstances our volunteers are in a position to write supporting evidence or appear as witnesses at Asylum Tribunals.

Where do these asylum seekers come from?

Most of the people we have worked with so far have been from Africa and the Middle East. For a full list of countries see ‘WHO’

Where is Time to be Out based?

Time to be Out is registered with the Charity Commission to work throughout England and Wales. The registered address of the charity is in York, and most of our volunteers are based in Yorkshire.

Where do asylum seekers live in the UK?

Most people who claim asylum qualify for National Asylum Seekers Support, whereby they are sent to live in shared housing run by outsourced accommodation providers. In Yorkshire and the North East (where most of Time to be Out’s clients are based) Mears runs the housing, and uses properties in places like Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Wakefield, Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Hull, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Jarrow.

The government is now planning to house about 1, 500 male asylum seekers at the former air force base of Linton-on-Ouse in rural Yorkshire. Time to be Out is working alongside other refugee charities to offer see what support can be offered there.

Asylum seekers are housed in luxury hotels. Why do they need extra support?

Most asylum seeker accommodation is in shared houses in fairly run-down or deprived areas. Many rooms have only a bed, with no chair or table. The houses have no television or Wi-Fi. Asylum seekers have to pay for cleaning materials etc. from the £40.85 per week they are allocated (to cover food, clothing, telephone data, toiletries, sanitary products etc.).

As a result of the Covid crisis and a backlog in the Home Office processing of asylum claims, many people are now housed in otherwise empty hotels (often on the edges of towns or by motorway roundabouts), but because food was provided, they are given only £8 per week. This means that people often cannot buy phone credit, bus tickets, clothing etc.

What are the main problems faced by LGBT+ asylum seekers?

Isolation: LGBT+ asylum seekers tend to be escaping their families, unlike other asylum seekers who come as families and can support each other. LGBT+ people are also often reluctant to meet migrants from their own culture in the UK because of hostile attitudes, which cuts them off from other sources of support and integration.

Bullying and harrassment: Asylum seekers are sent to live in shared housing, where LGBT+ people are frequently harrassed and bullied by other asylum seekers with homophobic and transphobic attitudes. Transgender women have been sent to share a house with hostile men, for example.

Providing evidence that will satisfy the Home Office: To claim asylum in the UK you usually need to demonstrate that you are at risk if you return home, but it is very difficult to collect evidence of such risk. For example, the Home Office might ask why homophobic attacks were not reported to the police, even in a country where the police are more likely to arrest the victim rather than the perpetrators. The Home Office also asks for evidence that applicants are living an openly gay life in the UK and are integrated into the local LGBT community. This can be almost impossible to prove given the circumstances in which people are living.

Communication and cultural difficulties: People whose first language is not English have the right to use an interpreter during their interviews with the Home Office or at their Asylum Tribunals. However, since the interpreters will be from their own cultural background there are often problems when talking about sensitive areas like sexuality. In some languages the only way of referring to LGBT+ identity are offensive terms. Many LGBT+ asylum seekers worry that they cannot communicate clearly through interpreters because of these linguistic and cultural difficulties.

Depression: The long delays (often a matter of years) waiting for decisions from the Home Office or Asylum Tribunals causes anxiety and depression. The vast majority of asylum seekers are not allowed to work or to study whilst their application is being processed, increasing their sense of isolation and purposelessness.