UK: Upper Tribunal Country Guidance Case on Homosexual Men in Sri Lanka

Friday, February 27, 2015

The UK Upper Tribunal has provided its Country Guidance on the risk to gay men in Sri Lanka, with particular reference to any difference arising out of civil partnership status. The case relates to two Sri Lankan nationals who had arrived in the UK as students and later entered a civil partnership. They subsequently applied for leave to remain on the basis of an Article 8ECHR claim. In an appeal against an initial rejection, their membership as a particular social group under the 1951 Refugee Convention, either as gay men or as gay men in a civil partnership was stated.

Having regard to the Supreme Court’s decision in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v SSHD, the Upper Tribunal finds that gay men in Sri Lanka are a particular social group [18]. However, in terms of the appellants’ status as civil partners, the Upper Tribunal finds that this does not constitute a particular social group or that Article 8 ECHR is engaged.

According to the Tribunal the Sri Lankan State’s failure to recognise the appellants’ status as civil partners has not been shown, on the evidence provided, “to be sufficiently flagrant of itself to destroy or nullify their family life” [25]. Indeed, the Upper Tribunal highlights that their status would continue to exist despite any recognition of it by the State.

The Tribunal goes onto note, with reference to Minister voor Immigratie en Asiel v X, Y and Z,  that notwithstanding the criminalisation of homosexuality in Sri Lanka, the level of sanctions in the country for gay men  “generally falls short of the level of persecution” [110]. Moreover, despite clear evidence of abuse of homosexuals by the police and their complete immunity the Upper Tribunal advances that “the evidence of general persecution of gay men amounted to a low number of serious incidents” and in general the treatment of gay men in Sri Lanka does not reach the standard of persecution or serious harm [118].

Finally the Tribunal does surmise that “there is more risk for lesbian and bisexual women in rural areas, because of the control exercised by families on unmarried women, and for transgender individuals and sex workers in the cities,” notably blackmail, harassment and serious harm. Therefore, a case by case assessment, also taking into account internal relocation, especially via Colombo, will need to be undertaken to assess the risk to the individual [108]. 

27 February 2015
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Actor of persecution or serious harm
Country of origin
Country of origin information
Family unity (right to)
Non-state actors/agents of persecution
Persecution Grounds/Reasons
Sexual orientation