Senthorun's cover image
Senthorun

Senthorun Sunil Raj

Year of Award: 2012 Award State: New South Wales Legal > General
Social Welfare > General
To investigate how sexual orientation and gender identity refugee claims are being pursued by specialist caseworkers - USA, UK
Download

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people are subject to discrimination, violence and harassment in all parts of the globe. Whether in the developing or developed world, homophobia and transphobia remains a pernicious and pervasive problem.

Thousands of LGBTIQ people flee from systemic human rights abuses to seek protection from other countries. Australia is one of an increasing number of countries around the world that recognise sexual orientation and gender identity as valid grounds to claim asylum. While this is promising, a lack of consistency in decision-making combined within inability to understand the unique identities and experiences of sexual and gender minorities has led to numerous claims for asylum being improperly decided or litigated.

My project addresses some of these challenges by investigating the way LGBTIQ claims are being pursued in the US and UK. In order to do so, I conducted interviews with lawyers, advocates, organisations and caseworkers in these countries. Specifically, I investigated several key casework and advocacy processes involved in making an asylum application: the initial screening and interviewing of asylum seekers; the development of litigation in response to asylum claims; the bureaucratic decision-making context; and the pursuit of political advocacy and law reform.

My research emphasises the need for an interdisciplinary approach that blends law, policy, social work, counselling, and grassroots training when pursuing LGBTIQ asylum claims.

With both Anglophone and non-Anglophone countries recognising sexual orientation and gender identity-based asylum claims, this area of work continues to expand and evolve. This research focuses on the UK and USA, two countries with developed advocacy and casework in this area. I note, however, while many of the organisations interviewed are self-described as LGBT or LGBTI, their caseloads and advocacy strategies varied considerably. In particular, it is worth emphasising that despite the increased specialist work being undertaken on sexual and gender minority asylum issues, there still remains a paucity of critical research, casework support, and advocacy on intersex asylum claims.

In particular, my research reiterates that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model that can be applied to every context of casework and advocacy. Instead of overly technocratic prescriptions, we need to develop approaches that value respect, empathy, reflexivity, cultural sensitivity and dialogue to ensure principled advocacy, casework and adjudication.

One point, however, is clear: we need to embrace a cross-disciplinary approach when pursuing LGBTIQ asylum advocacy and casework. Making a just decision at first instance is the most humane and cost effective approach when processing sexual orientation and gender identity claims for protection. It is my hope that many of the conclusions arising from this study may provide springboards into further areas for research by advocates, academics, activists, bureaucrats and community organisations.

Related fellows
John Chesterman, John
Legal > General
Social Welfare > General
2012
Michelle BROWNING, Michelle
Legal > General
Social Welfare > General
2010
Nicholas BOLTO, Nicholas
Legal > General
Social Welfare > General
2009
Suzanne MATTHEWS, Suzanne
Legal > General
Social Welfare > General
2009
Sally Willmott, Sally
Social Welfare > General
2012
Marie-Claire Cheron-Sauer, Marie-Claire
Social Welfare > General
2012
Kanaga Dharmananda, Kanaga
Legal > General
2012
Tanya Dupagne, Tanya
Social Welfare > General
2012
Kate Fielding, Kate
Social Welfare > General
2012
Robyn Forester, Robyn
Social Welfare > General
2012