The Conservative peer and government whip was asked yesterday in the House of Lords by crossbench peer Lord Harries of Pentregarth for the number of LGBT asylum claims from Uganda.
A Ugandan law further criminalising same-sex sexual activity, allowing repeat offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in prison, was given presidential approval in February.
Lord Harries asked Baroness Williams: “How many people from Uganda claiming asylum on the grounds that their lives are in danger because they are gay or lesbian were (1) allowed, and (2) refused, asylum in the latest year for which figures are available; and what steps are being taken to monitor the status of any individuals returned to Uganda?”
Baroness Williams replied: “My Lords, in 2013, the UK received 226 asylum claims from Ugandans. Of the 191 decisions made in 2013, 84 were granted asylum and 107 were refused.
“We cannot say without a manual search of the files how many were made on the grounds of sexual orientation, as this information is not currently stored in a way that can be retrieved via IT systems.
“The government do not routinely monitor the treatment of individuals removed from the UK, and individuals are returned to their own country only when the government and courts have established that it is safe to do so.”
“I thank the Minister for her reply,” Lord Harries said. “As she will know, the penalties against same-sex relationships in Uganda are horrendous, carrying the threat of life imprisonment with associated penalties for anybody who in any way supports lesbian, gay or bisexual relationships.
“Is she aware that, in the four months since those laws were passed, there have been 162 very well documented cases of the persecution of lesbian and gay people, many of them involving physical violence—and that is only the tip of the iceberg?
“Will she therefore please ensure that everybody involved in the asylum process is fully aware of the increasing gravity of the situation in Uganda, not just from the government but from the populace?”
Baroness Williams replied: “My Lords, work is going on to dig down to discover the type of asylum claims that are being made, and we hope to have some information towards the end of the year.”
Human rights groups, MPs and lawyers have frequently documented alleged cases of the Home Office deporting LGBT asylum seekers back to countries such as Uganda where they face violence.
The claims have always been denied by the Home Office.
Last week, the deportation of a lesbian asylum seeker to Uganda was halted with just hours to spare.
Officials had continued to proceed with Harriet Nakigudde’s deportation order – despite a pending judicial review application at the High Court
A review of UK LGBT asylum policy by Sir John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, will be published in the coming weeks.