Still Human, Still Here: Sexuality-Based Asylum Application Success
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor LinkedinDanielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
We represented an Appellant from Pakistan who was refused an asylum application on the basis of her being a lesbian. She claimed asylum in 2017 and came to us after her application was refused. We argued that the Appellant’s account was coherent and authentic and that she gave a clear account of her self-realisation of her identity as a lesbian. We made reference to the UNHCR guidance of sexual orientation claims, and that her experience and her cultural background explained her delay in claiming asylum. We argued that weight should be given to supporting letters and documentation and we argued that she would be at risk in Pakistan as a gay woman and could not relocate within Pakistan. We argued that there is no public interest in maintaining the refusal.
She was represented at the appeal by Grace Brown of Garden Court Chambers. The Appellant returned to Pakistan four times during her stay in the UK as a student. She said she realised about her sexual orientation when she was 16 or 17 and her relationships in Pakistan were kept secret. When she returned in May 2010 to visit her mother, an arrangement had been made by her family for her to get married. She was forced to marry a man in May 2010 and returned to the UK where her husband joined her later. She sent a letter to the Home Office saying that she didn’t wish to live with her husband and after that the husband returned to Pakistan in September 2012 to divorce her. The husband remarried and she had fears of her family as they came to know that she was gay. She started to receive threatening calls and her brother promised to bury her alive if he bumped into her.
The Home Office accepted her nationality and identity but considered that her answers to questions about her homosexuality to be evasive and lack details as expected from someone who stated they were gay, in a deeply homophobic society. The Secretary of State did not consider our client to be credible. The Secretary of State noted inconsistencies as to when she claimed to have her first relationship and stated that there were some inconsistencies in her statements. Little weight was given to letters in support from gay organisations in the UK and did not consider it to be determinative to her claim that she attended gay groups and events. The way that’s she expressed her emotions were not considered to be credible and her application was rejected.
We have argued that any inconsistency was not sufficient to reject the whole account. An interesting point about this case is that up to now, there were no reported decisions of the Upper Tribunal regarding the risks to gay women in Pakistan. This is a first.
Having taken all of the evidence we provided into account, the Judge concluded that the Appellant had established a credible basis to show she will be subject to persecution if she returned to Pakistan. He accepted her evidence.
This case is yet another example of the Home Office culture of disbelief when gay people seek protection here. The Home Office often refuses asylum claimants by stating that it’s not believed they are gay. Our clients often have to rely on the believability of their stories, when asked questions in an intimidating Home Office interview.
It is regrettable that the Home Office uses speculative arguments and unreliable plausibility findings, and uses a small number of inconsistencies to dismiss the application.
Amnesty International report in 2013, “Still Human, Still Here”, stated that errors in applying the credibility assessment are responsible for 88 percent of the flawed asylum decisions.