You Don’t Look Like A Lesbian: Asylum Aid highlights the difficulties faced by victims of sexual violence when seeking protection in the UK.

When Nina (not her real name) went into her interview she was alone. Having been beaten because of her sexuality, and raped by her own father, Nina was forced to flee the only home she ever knew. When she went to the UK authorities she thought she had found help. But they wouldn’t believe her. And she had nobody to advise her on what to do.

Adding to a growing list of evidence of unfair questions being put to vulnerable people seeking protection in the UK, the charity Asylum Aid has released a short film highlighting the experience of many people seeking protection alone.  

The film depicts a realistic interview between a Home Office official and a victim of sexual violence and is based on real questions that have been put to refugees. Questions include: “how can you be gay if you’ve had sex with men” and “when he tried to rape you did you try and stop him?” and, worse, “did you enjoy it?”. 

When a person flees violence and persecution and seeks protection from UK authorities they must go through a tough legal process to allow a fair decision to be made, and ensure we protect those who need it. Although refugees can apply for legal aid to get assistance, the reality is that it is rarely sufficient, or many people simply don’t qualify. Like Nina. It is estimated that a third of refugees are unrepresented in their initial application for asylum, leading to a much smaller chance of being granted asylum. 

New research by Asylum Aid and ICM Unlimited has shown that more than three-quarters of the GB population agree that people who need legal representation but cannot afford it should have it provided for them by the state (78%). However, when it comes to refugees, less than a third agree that free legal representation should be provided (30%), indicating that organisations providing assistance are of increasing importance.

Wayne Myslik, CEO of Asylum Aid said “Considering that the outcome of this legal process is so important, literally a life or death decision, it is unthinkable that a person would be expected to go through it alone. Having support from a professional who knows the system and can give the right advice is crucial. We are running this campaign to highlight the importance of helping people in this situation to obtain the right advice and we are asking members of the public to help us”. 

The film, produced by Red Brick Road and Rattling Stick, has been shown in cinemas nationwide with thanks to Digital Cinema Media, since 9 March.


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