Immigration: Asylum Seekers — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 7th March 2011.

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Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 2:52 pm, 7th March 2011

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will exercise the power in Section 94(5) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so as to restore the right of appeal against refusal of asylum to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people from Jamaica, Nigeria and Ghana.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, unsuccessful asylum claimants have a right of appeal to the UK courts. Designation under Section 94(5) does not deny a right of appeal to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual applicants from designated countries including Jamaica, Nigeria and Ghana. However, claims from nationals of non-suspensive appeal designated countries that are clearly unfounded must be certified as such and can be appealed only from outside the UK. There are no plans to change this.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the UKBA has collected figures on LGBT asylum seekers since last July, immediately after the Supreme Court ruling that the wrong test was being applied to them. How many cases have been recorded for each of these countries since then? If the overwhelming majority of them were either granted asylum on their application or allowed an appeal notwithstanding the provisions of the Act, does my noble friend agree that the law should correspond with the practice, as it already does for women?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord suggested that the wrong test was being applied previously. We are happy with the new test in HJ and HT. He asked me to cite some statistics and I will write to him, but a clearly unfounded claim is one that is so clearly without substance that it is bound to fail even were all other aspects of the applicant's claim accepted. Certification is subject to judicial review.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, if it is the Government's view that the right of appeal already exists, as I understand the Minister to have said, in the light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that application for asylum should be accepted if it is satisfied that a gay person who lived openly would be liable to persecution in the country of origin, would it not be appropriate to amend Section 94(5) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act to add sexual orientation to the list of specific descriptions of named categories of people who have the right of appeal?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, no, because all cases are considered on their merits. If there is no reason to suspect that an applicant is not gay and he comes from a homophobic state, he will have a good claim for asylum.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister will understand the comments made by those who have been subject to these procedures-that, for instance:

"If you do not fit", the border agency's,

"view of a stereotypical gay person then they don't get it-how do I prove I'm a lesbian?".

I am not asking the Minister to give a direct answer now but perhaps to take my question back to consider it, because I have not given him warning of it. In Section 94, there is the opportunity for the Secretary of State, when he thinks that it is appropriate, to add other attributes. Is the word "reasonably" implied when the Secretary of State has to consider those other attributes?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right on her first point on the difficulty of reliably determining whether someone is gay or not. I accept that point. But if the claim is not clearly unfounded, the applicant will be able to put that to officials and, if necessary, to an appeal court.

The noble Baroness talked about Section 94. We do not think that it is necessary to make a further designation under Section 94 as she suggests.