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Moud: Lesbian asylum seekers are suffering in silence

Moud became a refugee from Zimbabwe over six years ago. She now works at Micro Rainbow International, an organisation that provides support to LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. Even after they get their status, most LGBT

Lesbian asylum seeker illustration

Moud became a refugee from Zimbabwe over six years ago. She now works at Micro Rainbow International, an organisation that provides support to LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.

Even after they get their status, most LGBT asylum seekers are still isolated, they are still living below the poverty line. They are ostracised from their families because of their sexuality.

In the UK, asylum seekers get what is called National Asylum Support. Most of the time the Home Office accommodates you out of London and you get about £37 a week to survive. Accommodation is given on a no-choice basis. If they say they are taking you to Sheffield, that’s where you go. You don’t have a choice. Wherever they’re taking you, or whoever you’re going to live with, you don’t have a choice.

The issue that lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers face is that, in these accommodations they are put to share with people from their home country or other asylum seekers who come from homophobic or extremely religious backgrounds. They’re often attacked.

One lesbian asylum seeker we supported was living with a women who prayed for her every day. Every single day. Even though she said, “please, don’t.” She’s like, “no, you’ve got demons.” So she lived in this situation for a long time where this women is constantly, constantly praying for her, telling her how evil she is and how she needs to change.

There is a lot of bullying and you suffer from homophobia. Most times, LGBT asylum seekers will choose to stay in London because they feel a bit more accepted. They often stay in precarious conditions, where they are forced to be in situations they shouldn’t be in because they need a roof over their head. Sometimes they are forced into homelessness.

There are a lot of cracks resulting in lesbian asylum seekers just falling into poverty. They’re forced into domestic servitude a lot. They end up living in someone’s house, looking after their kids, and they don’t have freedom to move on. They’re not being paid for it because the person knows their background and says, “you can’t work so I’m not going to give you money.”

People end up in abusive relationships. One lesbian asylum seeker said to me, “I will be patient, I’ve been waiting for my refugee status for two years.” She was living with an abusive partner but she didn’t have anywhere else to go. She didn’t want to go into National Asylum Support accommodation, she’d just rather stay. So people are forced to stay in those kind of situations where they are abused and don’t have a voice. Even if they report it to the police, they still don’t have recourse to public funds, they still can’t access refuge at a shelter. So where else are they going to live?

Persecution faced by lesbian asylum seekers

Lesbian asylum seekers have suffered from things like violence, domestic violence, rape, corrective rape, any kind of sexual abuse, emotional and mental abuse, forced marriage. Those are just some of the issues they face. And then when they manage to escape, getting asylum in the UK becomes another hurdle to cross.

It is extremely difficult. You can’t go out there and start trying to step out of poverty when you’re still dealing with issues of low self-esteem and confidence, and dealing with things that happened to you back home.

My partner suffered from depression, but we had no one to turn to. It was something that we didn’t know how to deal with. No one to go to, or no one to ask. We couldn’t ask our flat mates who were also from different religious backgrounds and they had made it known that they don’t support gay people. We didn’t feel like we could go to the doctor and we had no safety nets. We were just sitting at home, looking at each other and thinking, “okay how do we deal with this? We don’t.” It was extremely horrible for her, and for myself.

This is something that still goes on. I have experienced it, that’s why I’m very passionate about supporting LGBT asylum seekers. No one will understand you better than another women who is going through the same. Without the right support, a lot of lesbian women suffer in silence.

Find out more: Support for lesbian asylum seekers

Homosexuality is criminalised in nearly 80 countries and in 10 countries homosexuality is punishable by death. A number of LGBT people flee their country of birth to the UK and claim asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are a number of organisations that support LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. For more information visit UKLGIG, Micro Rainbow International and Stonewall.

Read Moud’s story about proving your sexuality to the UK Home Office, here.


1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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