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Credibility Assessment in LGB cases: the case of the UK

Credibility Assessment in LGB cases: the case of the UK

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Published by LGBT Asylum News

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Published by: LGBT Asylum News on Sep 11, 2011
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01/17/2013

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Papers
 Fleeing Homophobia Conference
VU University Amsterdam, 5 and 6 September 2011
Credibility Assessment in LGB cases: the case of the UK
Amanda Gray
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 In this short time we have, I want to present the example of the UK and how it has dealtwith the challenge of credibility assessment in LGB cases. As the UK is one of the first EUmember states to introduce policy specifically for LGB cases as well as provide specific LGBtraining to case owners, I hope that what we learn from their experience can help informhow we work in our own individual states to improve the practice of credibility assessmentof LGB cases.In the UK credibility is too often the key determinant in an asylum decision. It is of evengreater, indeed critical importance in LGB cases as believing the applicant is gay, lesbian orbisexual is fundamental to a finding they come within the protection of the 1951 RefugeeConvention.UKBA is the government body in the UK with responsibility for processing applications forasylum and international humanitarian protection.
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Until recently, UKBA was vulnerable toserious criticism over its handling of LGB cases. For example, the UK Lesbian and GayImmigration Group (‘UKLGIG’), in their report ‘Failing the Grade’, had found a 98-99% rateof refusal for asylum applications based on sexual orientation by UKBA compared to 76.5%refusal rate for other claims.
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UNHCR, London.
Hence, practitioners and NGOs have been lobbying for a new
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http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/asylum/
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The UKLGIG report was an analysis of what UKLGIG called, ‘the disproportionate scale of LBGT asylumrefusals. See:http://www.uklgig.org.uk/docs/publications/Failing%20the%20Grade%20UKLGIG%20April%202010.pdf 
 
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approach towards the credibility assessment of those claiming asylum due to their sexualorientation.
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 This change eventually came about when political, judicial and social pressures cametogether. In April 2010 UKLGIG published their report entitled ‘Failing the Grade’ whichcriticised the way UKBA handled applications from LGB applicant. In May 2010 Stonewallwrote a report called ‘No Going Back’ which largely echoed the criticisms raised by UKLGIG.On 7 July 2010 the Supreme Court judgment of HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) was delivered.This mix of judicial progress, a strong voice in civil society and the political will (anannouncement by the Home Secretary after the decision of the Supreme Court) begin tomove the ball forward for change in how LGB decisions were made. This included howcredibility would be assessed.Following these developments, UKBA entered into engagement with specialised NGO’s andcivil society, such as London NGO’s Stonewall, UKLGIG as well as UNHCR. A new specific LGBAsylum Policy Instruction was published on 6 October 2010.
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 Following that, the UKBANAM+ Learning and Improvement Team developed a Training programme piloted for thefirst time in front of NGOs and UNHCR in November 2011.So, what has the introduction of training and policy in the UK achieved? And what can welearn from their experience?The first thing to say is that the introduction of specific LGB training and policy is to be verymuch welcomed. It is a most positive and essential step for a decision making body to taketo improve the credibility assessment in LGB cases. Policy creates standards by whichdecision makers can gain guidance and also to which they can be held to account. Training iskey to embed that standard on the ground. Fellow presenters will have focused on thedifficulties of credibility assessment in these cases and the bad practice that can arise. So I
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For example, recommendations coming from the Stonewall report included UKBA policy and UKBA trainingspecific to LGB cases for all UKBA case owners with a focus on how credibility is assessed. (page 34).
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http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumpolicyinstructions/apis/sexual-orientation-gender-ident?view=Binary
 
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will spend more of the time I have to look at the Training and Policy and how it attemptedto address areas of concern.The UKBA LGB Asylum Policy and Training sought primarily to address biases, prejudice andcultural barriers that had unfairly been impacting credibility assessment. The Trainingsought to challenge and develop self- awareness and diversity amongst case owners as wellas critical thinking so that decision makers could be in the right frame of mind to handleinformation provided to them appropriately. The Asylum Policy Instruction deals withpresumption around appearance, stating that ‘…
although an individual’s appearance or demeanour may have a bearing on the persecution suffered in the country of origin,stereotypical ideas of people, such as an ‘effeminate’ demenour in gay men or a masculineappearance in lesbians (or a lack of) should not influence the assessment of credibility’.
 Both the Policy and Training cover the issue of late disclosure – or ‘coming out’ late. ‘Comingout’ late has been used to damage credibility significantly, as was picked up by both UKLGIGand Stonewall in their research. The Policy invites decision makers to investigate themitigating reasons as to why an individual may come out late. It states that an adverse judgment should not be drawn from someone failing to disclose their sexual orientation atthe screening phase. However, it is perhaps regrettable this same strong position is nottaken in regard to the substantive interview, as many applicants will not be ready to comeout while others may not self-identify at all. The Training facilitates discussion withdelegates about whether or not it is reasonable to expect someone to disclose their sexualorientation in the screening or substantive interview, leaving delegates to reach their ownconclusions.The Asylum Policy deals with the issue of self-identification and it’s evidential importance.This is of central concern in LGB cases because in such cases the applicant’s personaltestimony may be his or her only evidence. The new Asylum Policy states
‘generally speaking self identification as a lesbian, gay or bisexual will be the normal starting point asan indication of a person’s sexual orientation.’ 
It is welcome, but perhaps could be evenclearer as to being itself indication rather than a starting point. This would then be in linewith the UNHCR Guidance Note on Sexual Orientation (2008) which states,
‘self-

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