In respect to the time taken from registering a protection claim to the point of asylum interview, no assessment of the effect on the mental health of LGBT+ asylum applicants has been made.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the length of time to process asylum claims but we are determined to clear the backlog, speed up decisions and prevent people becoming stuck in the system for long periods of time. We have already made significant progress in prioritising cases with acute vulnerability.
Our published policy guidance on both the asylum interview process for all claimants and our policy guidance products specifically in respect to LGBT+ claims are currently being updated. Both policies have been considered in line with our Public-Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in respect to LGBT+ individuals.
Our policy recognises that for applicants affirming an LGBT+ identity, they may not have spoken about intimate personal issues before and may have experienced hostile cultural, societal, familial and religious norms concerning the expression of LGBT+ identities in their home countries. This means it may be difficult for them to be open about their feelings, experiences and their fears of persecution during the interview process. Our policy, therefore, requires that account is taken of all relevant factors when establishing the applicants claim including any health issues that may be raised.
We provide extensive training to our caseworkers to ensure they can sensitively explore an individual’s sexual and/or gender identity and in considering how sexuality or a transgender identity can give rise to persecutory harm.
As part of our improvements to customer service, asylum interviews have been conducted via video conference (VC) from regional interview hubs since 2015. The suitability of a VC interview will be assessed using evidence submitted by the claimant or their legal representative prior to the interview, along with any ongoing or identified safeguarding concerns. Where a claimant is identified as being unsuitable for a VC interview because there are safeguarding concerns or factors that may prevent them from disclosing sensitive information, an in-person interview will be arranged.
Our interview process, irrespective of whether it is conducted by VC or face to face facilitates early signposting of safeguarding concerns to appropriate agencies who can support LGBT+ individuals and where medical evidence concerning an applicant’s vulnerability is brought to our attention, any request to prioritise a case will be taken into account.