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Executive Director Paul Dillane speaks at roundtable on Queer Asylum in Europe

On Thursday 17th May, Paul Dillane from Kaleidoscope Trust took part in a round table discussion hosted by the European Institute at the University College London (UCL) on Queer Asylum in Europe.

The round table discussion is part of the UCL European Institute’s project,LGBTQ Migration and Asylum, which is being led by Dr Richard Mole and co-funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. The project seeks to understand the unique experiences of LGBT+ people in the context of European migration.


Even though LGBT+ rights are recognised as a universal value, as we have recently witnessed, it is a view that is far from being accepted. In 13 states, homosexuality is punishable by death; a further 73 states criminalise people based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with imprisonment.  Many individuals flee their homes as a result of extreme persecution, discrimination and violence. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is widely accepted as grounds for seeking asylum in many European states, however not many queer people fleeing LGBT+-phobia are actually granted asylum.


Until recently, lots of the research on queer migration, diaspora and asylum was focused on the United States. Much less research has been done on asylum from LGBT+ peoples coming to or seeking asylum Europe. The project aims to build on the academic literature on this important issue.


Bringing  together activists and policymakers who have had hands-on experience of working with LGBT+ refugees and asylum-seekers, the discussion focussed on why many queer people are not granted asylum in European countries, the treatment of queer refugees in Europe and how to improve success rates.


Peter Grady, Senior Legal Officer UNHCR, gave a keynote speech on ‘Protecting LGBTI refugees: a UNHCR perspective.’ Senior Legal Officer at the UNHCR, Dr Richard Mole (UCL SSEES) chaired the conversation with Liz Barker (LGBT Spokesperson, House of Lords), Paul Dillane (Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust and Member of the UK Government LGBT Advisory Panel) and Moud Goba (Micro Rainbow International and UK Black Pride).


Liz Barker kicked off the round table with a passionate speech on the importance of human rights in the EU, expressing her concern over the UK Conservative Government’s role in driving forward Brexit and leaving behind a vacuum in the UK’s human rights laws and mechanisms.


Moud Goba spoke on her direct and frontline experience of working with queer refugees at Micro Rainbow. Retelling a time where she helped a young intersex person who presented as female but was assigned male at birth and was placed in male housing in the UK and the pursuant interphobia and discrimination experienced by the refugee, Moud highlighted the need to ensure inclusion at all levels of migration and asylum policies.


Executive Director Paul Dillane, pointed out the high number of countries where being LGBT+ is criminalised: "We should recognise out of 70 of the countries that criminalise homosexually more than half of them have laws that come from colonial legacy." He then went on to emphasise the important work of organisations like Micro Rainbow and UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG).


He then went on to talk about the landmark Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, of which he is a signatory, and his role as a drafter of the principles concerning state obligations in respect of the right to seek and enjoy asylum: “The Yogyakarta Principles provide countries with a comprehensive framework on how to uphold the fundamental rights of LGBT+ people including those seeking asylum on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression or sex characteristics. It is a powerful advocacy tool in a world where more and more LGBTI people are in search of sanctuary.”



Thank you to University College London (UCL) - European Institute for putting on the event and highlighting the much needed conversation on queer asylum.


Another thank you to the great speakers of the night:

  • Peter Grady [keynote speaker] - Senior Legal Officer, UNHCR

  • Baroness Liz Barker - LGBT Spokesperson, House of Lords

  • Paul Dillane- Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Trust, and member of the UK Government LGBT Advisory Panel

  • Moud Goba - Micro Rainbow International and UK Black Pride

  • Dr Richard Mole [chair] - Senior Lecturer in Political Sociology, UCL SSEES