Nigerian gay asylum seekers face greater rejection in UK

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Nigerians seeking asylum in Britain based on sexual orientation are facing greater rejection, government data showed on Thursday, with only 22 percent of total LGBT claims approved in 2017 down from 39 percent in 2015.

Home Office figures published last year show there were 362 such applications from Nigerians in the 21 months from July 2015 to March 2017. Of those, only 63 were allowed to remain in the UK after a tribunal hearing; the rest, 81%, were refused permission to stay.

The downward trend was slightly steeper than for other types of asylum applications, the Home Office said, although critics said officials expect too much and often disbelieve gay claimants who do not apply immediately.

“We have seen people whose claims have been refused in part because they didn’t use enough emotional language,” said Leila Zadeh, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, which supports LGBT+ asylum seekers.

“It’s incredibly difficult for somebody to tell the Home Office about this aspect of identity that they have never ever spoken about and that they feel ashamed to talk about.”

A Home Office spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that all asylum claims were carefully considered on their individual merits and decision-makers were given dedicated training on how to handle cases based on sexual orientation.

“No one who is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm in their country of origin because of their sexuality will be returned,” he said in emailed comments.

Some 2,000 people a year apply for asylum on the grounds of persecution for being gay, lesbian or bisexual, accounting for about 7 percent of total claims, the Home Office data showed.

The number of approvals for claims based on sexuality fell to 423 in 2017 from 620 in 2015, data showed.

The new figures come amid growing concern in Britain about LGBT+ asylum seekers being deported to countries where they face persecution.

In Nigeria, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are also outlawed. After Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nigeria is the country that produces the largest number of asylum claims based on sexual orientation.