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Research urges Home Affairs to grant asylum to gays and lesbians

in SOUTH AFRICA, 22/02/2013

The plight of gay and lesbian refugees gays fleeing persecution from across Africa yet failing to get refugee status in South Africa is being examined in a new study currently underway.

The research, set for release around the beginning of April, is being conducted by refugee lobby group People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), along with the Legal Resource Centre and Wits University’s Centre for Migration Studies.

It is hoped that the investigation would assist the Department of Home Affairs to improve its adjudication of refugee applications by foreign gays and lesbians who were currently largely being rejected.

Titled “Inconsistencies in adjudication for LGBTI asylum claims: Recommendations for the South African Department of Home Affairs,” the inquiry is being conducted in cities such as Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Musina.

Guillain Koko gay and lesbian project coordinator at Passop said the report was being done through interviews and analysis of rejected asylum applications by Home Affairs brought to them by their clients.

He said they were collecting the data from various parts of the country and hoped the report would provide Home Affairs “with necessary materials and expertise to better adjudicate refugee status based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

On the motive for instituting the research, he said they had noted that one of the main challenges facing gay and lesbian refugees was a lack of appropriate documentation.

He said “we’ve noticed that despite persecution and human rights abuses faced by LGBTI in their own countries, the Department of Home Affairs…doesn’t or rarely grant refugee status to this vulnerable minority.”

He highlighted that many applications for refugee status were being “rejected as unfounded and even manifestly unfounded.

“This has a negative effect in terms of their integration and access to job opportunities…because the temporary permit they are using is valid for a period of one to six months.

Mandi Mudarikwa, attorney at Legal Resource Centre confirmed their involvement in compiling the report saying their role included evaluating and assessing the adjudication decisions which the department had done on rejecting applications for refugee status by gay and lesbian asylum-seekers.

She said they were aware of “quite a number” of gay and lesbian asylum-seekers who had approached them for legal assistance after being rejected.

Mudarikwa said their concern was that some of these rejected asylum-seekers could face deportation to home countries such as Uganda were anti-gay laws were tough and they would be arrested and sent to prison on arrival.

She said they expected gays and lesbians fleeing persecution from across the continent to be protected in South Africa given that the country had laws allowing such a minority group to enjoy their rights.

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