Bisexual woman granted refugee status in the UK


We recently acted for a 20- year old Tunisian woman who was granted refugee status in the UK on the basis of her bisexuality.

The client claimed asylum in the UK on account of her fear of persecution from her family, the wider society and the authorities in Tunisia, one of the nations that criminalises same- sex relationships. The client was referred to Irene Molioti of ITN by UKLGIG, a charity that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, queer and intersex people though the asylum and immigration system.

The client came from a religious and conservative family whose ideas on the LGBT community reflected mainstream Tunisian society’s beliefs. She herself had been subject to bullying on numerous occasions due to her distinctive appearance, which did not comply with the norms. The process of realising her sexuality was not an easy process for her, given that she was raised in an environment where the sense of guilt is almost inherent in people. The realisation of her sexuality at the age of 17 created a mixture of feelings- confusion, guilt and, of course, fear of the consequences she would suffer should this be discovered, which resulted in her having to conceal her sexuality. After she entered the UK as a visitor, however, her “secret” was discovered by her mother and the client took the difficult decision not to return to Tunisia due to fear for her life and claim asylum in the UK.  

We advised the client on the evidence required to support her claim and worked closely with her in order to assist her in navigating the asylum process. Following the client’s asylum interview, we made detailed representations to the Home Office. We relied on the lead case of the Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v SSHD [2010] UKSC 31 to demonstrate that the client had a well- founded fear of persecution on account of her sexuality and her removal to Tunisia would constitute a breach of the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. The key conclusion reached by the Supreme Court in the above case was that no one could be expected, still less required, to conceal who they are in order to avoid persecution. We demonstrated that the client would be liable to persecution if she chose to live openly as a bisexual woman in Tunisia and that fear of persecution/ harm would be a material reason why she would choose to conceal her sexuality. The Home Office accepted the client’s account and granted her refugee status.

Notwithstanding the difficulties many asylum seekers encounter when they seek international protection on the basis of their sexuality, due to the nature of these claims, the Home Office’s decision in this case shows that a successful outcome can be achieved and many people in our client’s position can stand a good chance of succeeding.

ITN's Immigration Department have successfully represented many people seeking asylum. The team members are dedicated at helping vulnerable clients of diverse nationalities. If you find yourself in a similar position and require assistance in relation to an application for asylum, please contact our Immigration Department on 0203 909 8100 for further assistance.

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