It can take a very long time to claim asylum in the UK and this can be a very frustrating experience. However, with claims based on sexuality, this time can be used to your advantage.
Integrate with the LGBT community
The Home Office guidelines on sexuality recognise that being lesbian, bisexual or gay is as much a social identity as it is about relationships. So the Home Office interviewers, and the judges at asylum appeals, should be looking for evidence that you are making connections and becoming comfortable within the wider LGBT community.
This can be hard if you live some distance from Manchester, or if you lack the self-confdence to take part in the social scene in Manchester's gay venues - typically in and around the Village. Additionally, you may prefer not to drink alcohol or you may simply not have the money to spend time in commercial venues.
However, there is more to Manchester's LGBT community than bars and clubs!
There are a number of groups which welcome LGBT asylum seekers:
- LISG (Lesbian Immigration Support Group) and WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) both work with lesbian asylum seekers.
- Many of the groups and services connected with the LGBT Foundation are happy to welcome asylum seekers and refugees as volunteers and participants. In particular, Icebreakers is a group for gay and bisexual men who are new to the scene. and Stepping Stones is a women's group at the LGBT Foundation.
- Particular interest groups such as the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus, and LGBT sports groups such as Manchester Village Spartans Rugby Union Football Club, the Village Manchester Football Club, or Northern Wave Swimming Club, can all offer opportunities to develop friendships, learn new skills, and build self-confidence in who we really are.
- And of course there is our own First Wednesday group, and the Metropolitan Congregation for LGBT Christians seeking a welcoming and affirming spiritual space.
All of these can be useful places for you to make friends, share experiences, tell your stories, gain support, offer your gifts and skills as a volunteer or participant, and steadily find your own unique place within the LGBT community which reaches far beyond the commercial interests of the Village.
You may wish to explore the longer listing of social and support groups on our Links page.
It is important for you to make friends within the LGBT community for a number of reasons:
- Everyone needs a good circle of friends, and there can be a real sense of isolation for any LGBT person who lacks friends from within the LGBT community.
- It is hard for people who are new to the UK to make friends in the wider community, and the various LGBT community groups can be good places to start to make friends and to build self-confidence.
- Life is better with friends than without, especially in times of difficulty.
- Friends can help, when they get to know you in some depth, by giving statements and support for your case.
It takes time
One word of warning - don't go to a new group and immediately ask them to start writing supporting letters about you and your case! Most groups need to know you for a meaningful period of time before they can write any personal endorsements about you.
Clearly this can be a problem if you have an upcoming appeal or you need to make a Fresh Claim. But the courts value statements from people who have known you for some time and who have a genuine insight into your life and loves. You may weaken your case if statements about you are unconvincing. Your lawyer should advise you on this. Your lawyer may say to you, "See if they will give you a letter..." without realising that the letter may contain little or nothing of any value that the group can say about you because your link with them has been so short-lived.
Similarly don't get involved in groups just for what you believe they can offer you. You will not be demonstrating integration into the LGBT community unless you can show that you have committed your own gifts, skills, and time to the groups that you have joined. Be ready for a perfectly reasonable question: "What are the aims and objectives of the XYZ group that you belong you, and why are those aims important to you?"