“Have you ever read Oscar Wilde?” asks UK immigration judge


The saga continues regarding the difficulties faced by vulnerable LGBT asylum seekers when engaging with authorities in the United Kingdom following recent revelations about judges in the country. Academic research from an English university highlights ignorance and prejudice from immigration judges, finding that they asked applicants questions such as “Do you use sex toys?”

Researcher Claire Bennett from the University of Southampton conducted interviews with twelve lesbian women from socially conservative nations such as Uganda, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia to examine their firsthand insight of the immigration system in the UK. What she found was “inappropriate and insensitive” probing by the judiciary to assess whether an asylum claimant was both genuinely gay and at risk of persecution in their homeland.

Examples of questions asked include: “Have you ever read Oscar Wilde?”, “Do you use sex toys?” and “Why have you not attended a Pride March?” A Jamaican woman was told that she didn’t “look like a lesbian.”

The use of stereotypes and a “fixation in relation to sexual conduct” from UK immigration institutions has been well documented recently. In mid-March, the death of Ugandan woman Jackie Nanyonjo who was deported earlier in the year sparked concern over human rights abuses. The UK Border Agency was subsequently overhauled following what Home Secretary Theresa May called its “defensive” and “secretive” behavior.  

UK lawyer S Chelvan is a leading expert in asylum claims based on sexual or gender identity. He developed the DSSH (Difference, Stigma, Shame and Harm) model in 2011 as a device to assist the courts in refugee status determination. He says these four issues are the core triggers in the majority of LGBT asylum claims.

He told 429Magazine: “There are no statistics to support these anecdotal false claims,” on the question of whether a self-identification system in court could lead to some asylum applicants illegitimately gaining entry to the UK.


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