Barrister S Chelvan was awarded the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award last month for his work in immigration and asylum, according to The Guardian. He is best known for his work in representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people who are fleeing persecution.
“It is a very dangerous world to be gay in,” he said.
Chelvan has been an out, gay man since his 20s. He has helped to define some important LGBTI asylum cases in European and UK courts over the past couple of years.
One of the most important cases was HT and HJ, Cameroon and Iran. It involved two gay men who were denied asylum in the United Kingdom because they could return home and not face persecution if they hid their sexuality.
“This was the dark days of asylum in the UK – from 2004-2010,” Chelvan said.
During his keynote speech at the Stonewall lecture, hosted by the Law Society, Chelvan drew attention to inhumane practices against LGBTI people seeking asylum.
“Gay and lesbian asylum seekers come to the UK for protection, but a culture of disbelief sees some go to extreme lengths to prove their sexuality. They find themselves in an intolerable position.”
“The worst part of the asylum system is what is called detained ‘fast track.’ The Home Office is scared that suddenly everybody will say they are gay. The point is that you investigate the process. You don’t detain them. Because these cases are complicated.”
Chelvan continued, “The reason I’m at the Bar is to be the mouthpiece for those who have no voice. I’m very lucky to work in a niche area where the needs of my clients are [close to] my heart. I get cards, and invariably they say: ‘Thank you for saving my life.’ How do you put a price tag on that?”