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Rights of LGBT Refugees

What does LGBT mean?

LGBT is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual.

  • Lesbian = women who love women
  • Gay = men who love men
  • Bisexual = people that have sexual relationships with both genders
  • Transsexual = Transsexual people experience a gender identity that is inconsistent with, or not culturally associated with, their assigned sex, and might desire to permanently transition to the gender

Can I apply for asylum in Europe because I was persecuted in my country of origin due to my sexual orientation or gender identity?

Yes, you can. In 2011 the European Union made a law stating that persecution based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a valid ground to be granted asylum. You have the right to a refugee status on the grounds of your gender identity, gender expression (e. g. the way you dress) or sexual preference (e. g. same sex relationships) if your life, liberty, physical safety or other basic human rights are threatened.

Does it matter for my asylum claim who was persecuting me?

Sometimes. Persecution by government authorities is grounds for asylum, but so is persecution by other actors including family members, non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, particular individuals or other elements of society. If your feared persecutor is non-governmental, you will be eligible for asylum only if the state authorities cannot or will not protect you.

Is it already persecution if homosexual acts are criminalized by law in my country of origin?

No, only the existence of a law charging homosexual acts is not necessarily persecution. However, if this law is actually used in your country of origin and if you can be imprisoned for being homosexual, then this is an act of persecution, because it is a punishment which is disproportionate or discriminatory.

I´m married because this was required by my family. But actually I´m homosexual. Can I still be recognized as a refugee for my sexual orientation?

Assuming you fear persecution because you are homosexual, you may qualify for asylum even if you were (or still are) married. Many refugee and asylum examiners today know that social pressures and cultural norms can push people into marriages they don’t desire. Many also know that the way people express their sexual orientation can change over time. Even if you have a knowledgeable interviewer, be prepared to answer many questions about the circumstances around your marriage, your sexual orientation and your current relationship. Depending on where you’re applying for asylum, you may encounter an interviewer who does not understand you can be homosexual and yet get married. Be sure to convey to your interviewer why in your society all people must marry regardless of their sexual orientation. Try to communicate the hardship a homosexual person there may face if he/she remains unmarried.

I am a man and am applying for asylum because I was caught being intimate with another man, but I am actually bisexual. Should I hide my relationship with women from the refugee authorities?

Bisexuality can be a basis for getting asylum, although you may have a more difficult time proving your eligibility, and should expect some difficult questioning during your interview. Still, you should be truthful and not conceal any information. Inconsistencies and untruthfulness usually emerge during a thorough refugee interview, and can result in denial of your case. Be honest about your relationships with women. If you truly fear harm because you were or are with another man, you should ultimately win.

In my country, people who are known to be LGBT are discriminated against and suffer violence. I know of two who have been killed. But if you hide who you are, you can stay safe. Can I qualify for refugee status?

Yes, you can. Up until recently, many countries rejected asylum claims of people who could avoid harm by going home and living “discretely” (in the closet). In 2013 the European Court of Justice ruled that a person cannot be required to live “closeted” in order to avoid persecution. So it is not allowed to reject your asylum claim on the ground, that you wouldn´t have to fear of persecution if you would conceal your homosexuality in your country of origin or exercise restraint in expressing it. (Some countries make a distinction between people who must remain “discrete” to avoid persecution and those who wish to avoid social pressures. Before applying, make sure you understand the rule in the place where you are applying to best assess your chances of success.)

Will I have to bring any kind of “proof” of my homosexuality in my asylum Interview?

No. The only thing you should do is to present the reasons why you were fleeing and the circumstances around it as truthfully as possible. In 2014 the European Court of Justice stated that it is not allowed for member states of the European Union to require or accept any kind of tests or proof from asylum seekers regarding their sexual orientation. The interviewer is also not allowed to carry out detailed questioning regarding to the sexual practices of an applicant for asylum. It is written in the European law that the member states should train the interviewers to be sensitive and capable of taking into account the applicant’s cultural origin, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. However in reality there are often not enough special trained asylum officers available. The best practice to make sure that your interview is conducted in a proper and dignified way is, if a lawyer or counsellor is accompanying you. Also in case you might have been asked intimating questions, you can with the help of a lawyer or a NGO file a complaint against your mistreatment after the interview.

Might it harm my asylum claim if I don´t state from the beginning that I`m seeking asylum because of my sexual orientation?

No, it shouldn´t. The member states of the European Union are not allowed to believe that the statements of the applicant for asylum lack credibility merely because the applicant did not rely on his declared sexual orientation on the first occasion he was given to set out the ground for persecution. If you are not ready to state persecution on the grounds of your gender identity, -expression or sexual preference or do not feel safe to do so, you should definitely say this. You can state that you are not ready to give certain reasons for leaving your country due to traumatic experiences and/or fear of continuous persecution here in Europe. This will ensure that you will have the option of stating further reasons later on in the procedure without being accused of having made them up after your first appointment with the asylum authorities.

Do I need to fear that my family or my friends will know about my homosexuality if I will tell the authorities in my interview?

No, the asylum services in all European countries must treat the information you give them in your interview secretly and not reveal them to any other third party.

I´m afraid that my homosexuality will be revealed in the camp and I´m afraid of discrimination or persecution there. What can I do?

If you are in danger of discrimination or persecution in the camp or accommodation you are in because of your sexual orientation, you should definitely seek help. You can contact UNHCR in your camp. They can either help you or refer you to an organizations, that is specialized on LGBT refugees. They are obliged to treat the information you give to them secretly.