migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Pride in standing together

Editorial: Pride in standing together

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Pride in standing together

The arrival of June marks Pride month. Ever since the Stonewall uprisings of June 1969, this has been a chance for LGBTQ+ communities around the world to celebrate. Although many of these celebrations are virtual this year, their message of diversity, equality and freedom of expression is no less vital. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. 

Migrant Voice stands with the LGBTQ+ community. Ensuring safety and dignity for all people, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation or immigration status, must continue to be a priority for governments and communities across the world. 

Yet Pride is not just a party, and its history as a political movement for rights and recognition should not be forgotten. Many battles remain, with the fair treatment of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees being one of them.  

Those navigating the UK asylum system frequently face suspicion, personal prejudice, aggressive questioning, and painfully crude (mis)understandings of sexuality, identity and cultural difference.

One person who is all too familiar with Home Office practice in this area is Migrant Voice member Espoir Njei, a gay activist from Cameroon who is currently seeking asylum in the UK after being persecuted for her sexuality. 

A decision has not yet been made on Espoir’s case, but she has already had to face bizarre questions about her social life and a total lack of understanding as to why revealing her sexuality to armed police at the UK border was a difficult thing to do. 

Britain’s responsibility to ensure safety for people like Espoir comes not only from its obligations under international refugee law - which states that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is grounds for an asylum claim - but its colonial past as well. Much of the horrific anti-gay legislation still in force across the world was imposed during rule by the British Empire and is a direct legacy of British colonialism. 

Like so many issues then, thinking across borders is essential. With events under the Pride banner held on every continent, Pride is a great example of international solidarity - the kind we need when fighting societal injustice of any kind. As we have seen with the #BlackLivesMatter protests sweeping the globe, we are stronger when we stand together across borders.

And while some parts of society may try to pit migrants and LGBTQ+ communities against one another, it’s clear that these are two (overlapping) groups that have a great deal in common. Both are often labelled ‘illegal’, used as scapegoats, and vilified by certain sections of the media - and of course, there are many individuals, such as Espoir, who identify with both too. For them, the discrimination they face as a migrant often bears an all too familiar echo of the persecution they have endured on the basis of their gender identity or sexuality.

But rather than fall into despair, we can and must look to use this commonality as a catalyst for positive change. It may be a cliche, but there is truth in the saying, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. 

So while we may not be out on the streets this June, this does not mean we must be silent. 

Firstly, we urge the UK Government to overhaul the processes for assessing asylum applications and to root out attitudes of suspicion and distrust in favour of fairness and impartiality. Secondly, we call on migrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community and anyone who wants to see justice, to stand together to fight discrimination, wherever it is found and whoever is targeted. 

 

We're fighting with Espoir as she seeks the right to stay in the UK. Find out more about the I Am Espoir campaign here.


TOP IMAGE: Espoir Njei and supporters of the I Am Espoir campaign by Migrant Voice.