Seeking support in Liverpool: issues and barriers for asylum seekers and refugees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex

Jennifer New
University of Liverpool

Abstract
The following article highlights significant issues and barriers that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers and refugees can experience when seeking asylum in the UK and accessing relevant support services in Liverpool. This action-orientated research project was developed in collaboration with Sahir House (Merseyside’s HIV support, information and training centre) in 2013 to respond to the distinct lack of specialist support available to these groups in Liverpool at the time. The project was established as a scoping study to identify and highlight the unique experiences and support needs of LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in Liverpool that could be used as evidence to improve personal experience, service provision and professional practice in Liverpool in the future. Data collection consisted of participant observation at Sahir House and ten semi-structured interviews with professionals with direct or indirect experience of supporting LGBTI asylum seekers or refugees in Liverpool. The research identified and highlighted a number of issues LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees may encounter before, during and after the asylum process that can impact negatively on their experience of the UK asylum process; ability to disclose their identities to others; mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing; confidence, self-esteem and self-worth; physical living conditions; mobility through the city; and ability to seek and access support in Liverpool. Further, the research identified key personal, social and structural barriers that could restrict LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees from ‘telling their story’ in full to decision-makers and from disclosing their multiple intersecting identities to professionals in support organisations. Given the extensive number of concerns raised in the research, this article concludes with recommendations for service providers and commissioners of services that could be used to improve personal experience and support provision, availability and accessibility, reduce barriers to disclosure within services, and significantly reduce isolation for this extremely vulnerable group of individuals in Liverpool.