A preoccupation with perversion: The British response to refugee claims on the basis of sexual orientation, 1989-2003

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Social and Legal Studies, 2005, 14 (1), pp. 115 - 138
Issue Date:
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Britain's approach to refugee claims by lesbians and gay men has been notably hostile in comparison to other Western refugee-receiving nations. For many years decisionmakers in the UK have refused to accept that those fleeing persecution on the basis of sexual orientation were even capable of being refugees under the terms of the Refugees Convention. Since accepting eligibility in 1999, UK decision-makers have repeatedly held that asylum seekers are under a duty to protect themselves by hiding their sexuality. They have also been extremely reluctant to hold that criminal sanctions for gay sex are themselves persecutory and have frequently failed to appreciate the relationship between violence against lesbians and gay men and the existence of criminal provisions. This article suggests that there is a discernible national response in the courts and tribunals of Britain to sexual orientation-based refugee claims. That response carries echoes of the 1956 Wolf enden Report, most notably its 'solution' to the 'problem' of homosexuality: privacy.
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