33 Bedford Row

Dr Chelvan

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This content is provided by Dr Chelvan.

Practice Areas

Immigration, Asylum and LGBT+/Queer Rights.


PhD Law (KCL, 2019); LLM (Harvard, 2001, Kennedy Memorial Trust Scholar)); BSc (Soc Sci) Politics and Law (First Class, ranked top in department) (Southampton, 1998); and Certificate in Executive Leadership (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, 2020) (97%).

Called to the Bar (14 October 1999, Inner Temple (Major Scholarship and Duke of Edinburgh Entrance Award)).

Tenant at No5 Barristers’ Chambers (London) since January 2011. Door Tenant, Trent Chambers (Nottingham) since April 2002.

Professional Memberships

- Government Equality Offices LGBT Advisory Panel (Since March 2019);

- Trustee, FREEBAR (since February 2017);

- Reviewer (Immigration), ADVOCATE (formerly Bar Pro Bono Unit) (since 2017) Panel member since 2004;

- Committee member of the Equality Diversity and Social Mobility Committee (since 2008);

- International Rights Officer – UK Black Pride (since March 2018);

- Home Office, Equality sub-group, National Asylum Stakeholders Forum (since 2015); and

- Home Office, LGBT Training Committee, Founding member (2014-2016).


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” - co-author - Chapter XI in Volume 2 of “Credibility Assessment in Asylum Procedures” (CREDO project, Hungarian Helsinki Project and the UNHCR, May 2015);


(co-author with Mark Harper and ors): ‘Same Sex Marriage and Civil Partnership:

The New Law’ (Chapter 9: Immigration and Asylum), (Jordans, May 2014) ‘Chapter 9 addresses the law relating to immigration and asylum in impressive detail and engages extensively with the key authorities and procedural issues’ (Helen James, 2015 The Law Teacher Vol 49, No 1, 130-140) - “Often viewed as an incompressible area of the law, in this chapter … the key points are delivered in digestible chunks” (Andrew Powell, 2015, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 37.2, 285-287).


Publications (journal articles)

“Put Your Hands up (If You Feel Love)” (JIANL 2011), “How does a lesbian come out at 13?” (Women’s Asylum News October 2011); and “Queer Cases, Great Law”, Opino Juris (March 2012); “From Silence to Safety” (Counsel Magazine: May 2013); “Case Comment, X, Y and Z” European Human Rights Law Review (2014) (1), pp. 49-58. Westlaw Insight: (January 2014) “Asylum: Basic grounds for claiming asylum” (March 2014) Lexis “How uncertain is the future for free standing article 8 claims?”; “The Last Legal Aid Barrister of the Year?” (Counsel Magazine: February 2015) “Are refugees from Syria really refugees?” (Free movement blog, 9 September 2014); and “New Home Office API on Gay Asylum Claims: Not Fit For Purpose” (Free movement blog, 8th August 2016).

Publications (forthcoming):

December 2020 - ‘The Queer Outside in Law’ (Chapter 4- Aderonke Apata: the Voice of the Silenced) (eds Peter Dunne and Senthoran Raj).


‘To be the mouthpiece for those who know the words but have no voice’ - Dr Chelvan is a globally recognised legal expert on refugee and human rights claims based on sexual, or gender identity and expression. He is instructed on cases in the UK up to and including the Supreme Court, and the Strasbourg Court. Chelvan views his role is that of a story-teller and interpreter, translating his client’s narratives into the foreign language called the law, but to do so, establishing ‘the safe space’ in order for the person seeking asylum to be able to tell their stories.

Having practiced in the field of LGBT+ asylum since 2001, Chelvan has been recognised as the leading legal expert by the UK’s Legal Directories since 2006, spearheading some of the leading cases since 2005. Since 2010, Chelvan has been consulted as an internationally recognised expert by the United Nations, the IOM, regional and national governmental organisations and bodies, lawyers and NGOs. His Difference, Stigma, Shame and Harm (‘DSSH’) model, created by Chelvan in 2011 as a positive tool to determine an LGBT+ asylum claim is used globally, endorsed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees since 2012, EASO, the IOM, the IARLJ and used by various governments, including the UK’s Home Office, since 2015. Newsweek Europe in 2014 described the model as ‘a simple starting point that cuts across borders’. In supporting his 2018 Attitude Magazine Pride award in July, the Nigerian lesbian activist Aderonke Apata, who successfully gained asylum after a 13-year battle after Chelvan was instructed, commented, ‘the way that he fought .. and they [the Home Office] gave me asylum, that’s magical to me’. Danila Stepin, another of Chelvan’s clients who feared persecution in Russia said, ‘Chelvan is really an admirable man, he saves peoples lives’.

Chelvan’s approach to his practice successfully employs a symbiotic approach to litigation, academic research and policy work at both a UK and European level. Chelvan has provided training to Judges, lawyers, NGOs and activist and his public speaking has earned him an international reputation as a charismatic and engaging speaker, including giving the 11th Stonewall Lecture in February 2013 highlighting to a national audience for the first time the extreme lengths gay asylum-seekers were taking to prove their sexual identity. His PhD in Law, awarded 1 June 2019 by King’s College London, examines the shift in approach in asylum cases in England and Wales from conduct to identity: ‘At the End of the Rainbow, Where next for the Queer Refugee?: Understanding Queer Refugees’ Lives: Moving from sexual conduct to identity in sexual-orientation/identity asylum cases in England and Wales’. Chelvan has published extensively and is regularly interviewed by national and international media outlets (Legal Action Magazine (September 2018) (Sue James) and The Hearing podcast (November 2018) (Kevin Poulter)). His cases receive international media attention.

Chelvan was awarded the 2014 Legal Aid Barrister of the Year award, is the highest-ranking lawyer in the 2015 Independent on Sunday Rainbow List, is in the Black Law Directory’s Powerlist of the top 34 BAME lawyers, named a Legal Hero for 2015 LegalPride and was shortlisted in 2017 in the Barrister of the Year category for the Lawyer Magazine awards (the only non-QC to be shortlisted). d. He is a Trustee of FREEBAR, and is a Stonewall Role Model, giving the keynote speech at the Stonewall Workplace conference in Manchester in September 2018. In March 2018, Chelvan joined UK Black Pride as the International Rights officer, making clear seeking global change demands engagement of all Queer voices. In October 2019 he was appointed the Independent Reviewer of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression by the Independent Advisory Board for Country Information. His report addressing Home Office COI on 31 countries was filed on 10 February 2020 with the findings and recommendations addressed to the IAGCI and Independent Chief Inspector on 31 March 2020. The report is before the Home Secretary and is expected to be laid before Parliament in late-2020.