Raawiyah Rifath

PhD Student

Raawiyah began her PhD research in April 2019. Raawiyah’s research is concerned with the asylum process faced claimants basing their claims on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOaGI) in the United Kingdom. By using an interdisciplinary approach of law and psychology, it aims to mitigate the difficulties faced by these asylum seekers during the asylum process by incorporating their specific vulnerabilities to create a reformation to the current standard of proof through engaged research.

In 2017, the UK Home Office granted only 25% of asylum seekers, basing their claims on sexual orientation, refugee status. This is a low number compared to other countries, for example, Canada which granted 97% of asylum claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The 75% refused by the UK were at risk of being sent back to a country where they may face persecution based on their sexual orientation. When a claimant flees forms of persecution and arrive into the UK, they are often placed in detention centres. Some asylum seekers have been detained in excess of two years and several have attempted suicide due to deteriorating mental health. It has been reported that SOaGI asylum seekers face threats and violence when placed in accommodation by companies such as G4S and Serco who are contracted by the UK Home Office. Her research will investigate a more efficient standard of proof to reduce the time spent in these detrimental environments.

The evidence of SOaGI asylum seekers being placed in unsafe environments is an example of a lack of understanding of their vulnerabilities and needs by the UK Home Office. This can also be said in terms of the burden of proof placed on SOaGI asylum seekers. The current standard of proof in the UK, to qualify for asylum, is that the claimant must ‘establish their case to a reasonable degree of likelihood’ that they have a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted’ on the basis of one of five characteristics. Alongside, a ‘real risk’ must be present in relation to non-refoulment. It has been reported, in practice, the burden of proof placed on SOaGI asylum seekers is higher than a ‘reasonable degree of likelihood.’ Her research proposes that SOaGI are unlike other protected characteristics due to its deep-rooted self-identification. It has been established that current asylum laws incorporate SOaGI, however, this research is concerned with the appropriate levels of evidence that is expected from an SOaGI asylum seeker in accordance with their particular needs.  Her research proposes a shift in how these characteristics are understood, due to their fluid nature and root in self-identification, which will inform the requisite level of evidence for an SOaGI asylum seeker.

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