Showing posts with label Asylum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asylum. Show all posts

August 31, 2019

The Rejection of Gay Asylum Seekers Claims Shows The Anti Gay Attitudes in England

                                       Image result for homophobic england

An immigration judge in the United Kingdom has caused a storm amongst LGBT rights activists after he rejected an asylum seeker’s claims that he was gay. Whilst full details of the case have not been revealed, the asylum seeker, according to reporting from the Guardian newspaper, claimed he was fleeing his country due to fears for his own safety. The judge denied the application for asylum in the first-tier immigration tribunal in London because the man did not have a gay “demeanor.” The claimant’s barrister compared the ruling to “something from the 16th century,” with LGBT activists voicing their disapproval. But what does this case tell us of the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers, and is it indicative of the Brexit-torn country’s future immigration stance?
The stereotyping of gay men during the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by homophobic government legislation and media coverage, resulted in a societal fear of gay men and the broader LGBT community.

Hadley Stewart 
Writer, broadcaster, and journalist
Gay men face the death penalty in 14 countries across the world. The European Union is comparatively accepting of LGBT people on the global stage, yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-Europeans continue to face other forms of prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the UK is ranked eighth in the EU in terms of LGBT rights. The country remains a popular place for LGBT people to settle from continental Europe and further afield. So it is perhaps unsurprising that such an outdated view of LGBT people being expressed in a court of law has caused a stir amongst activists and human rights defenders. 
The judge exemplified why he thought the claimant was lying about his sexuality. The claimant’s witness - also a gay man - wore lipstick to court. The judge commented on this, suggesting that claimant’s appearance did not mirror that of other gay men. Moreover, the judge said that the witness had an “effeminate way of looking around the room” and that he was able to demonstrate his sexuality by his membership of an LGBT organization.
It is baffling that a judge would make such comments, which are deep-rooted in stigma towards gay men. These comments have no place in a court of law, nor in our society, and suggesting that somebody should “prove” their sexuality is nonsensical. In fact, I would argue that it mirrors practices in countries where homosexuality is illegal. Only a few years have passed since the United Nations called on the government of Tunisia to ban doctors practicing forced anal examinations of men who were “suspected” of being gay; practices that were deemed by the intergovernmental organization as a human rights infringement. There is no medical evidence to support claims that such examinations enable authorities to determine somebody’s sexuality.
Whilst the judge’s comments do not equate to these kinds of barbaric practices in countries where it is illegal to be gay, they do set the UK down a slippery slope. The stereotyping of gay men during the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by homophobic government legislation and media coverage, resulting in a societal fear of gay men and the broader LGBT community. The discourse surrounding the HIV crisis, and the insinuation from Margaret Thatcher that gay men threatened the values of her country, caused the isolation of this group within society. Poor mental health amongst LGBT people is often cited alongside discrimination and societal stigma, demonstrating the negative consequences such comments can have on those who hear them. These views belong in the past and have no place in today’s society.
What’s more, the judge’s comments also raise questions about the attitudes of authorities towards LGBT people. If a judge felt so at ease by making such offensive remarks, it begs the question of the extent to which homophobia can creep into immigration rulings and other Home Office matters. Arguably Prime Minster Johnson calling gay men “tank-topped bumboys” has the potential to give the green light to senior officials to make future comments of this nature, or use offensive views towards minorities to defend everything from court rulings to immigration policies.
The UK is currently going through a challenging time in its history as it attempts to divorce the EU. Whilst I am not suggesting that everybody who voted for Brexit is prejudiced, Brexit certainly caused a seismic shift of the political landscape, with offensive comments oozing through the fault lines. Racist and xenophobic comments seem to have found a rebirth amongst the general public, elected representatives and the media. Global politics, namely the throw-away comments made by President Donald Trump about immigrants, have further galvanized a once quiet minority within British society.
Such discriminatory views about immigration have also spilled across all aspects of society, perhaps in part demonstrated by the number of homophobic hate crimes doubling since 2014, with transphobic hate crimes trebling. This immigration case might be indicative of the need for reform, such as building bridges between courts and LGBT organizations, to ensure LGBT people are being treated fairly by the Home Office.
It is clear that the judge, in this case, lost all objectivity and prioritized his own archaic homophobic views when passing a judgment, which has the potential for devastating consequences for the claimant. Whilst the comments he made raises further questions about the influence of outmoded stigma creeping its way into future rulings, I would argue that they are symptomatic of broader societal unrest. At a time when the UK has never been more divided and lacking in empathy for minority groups, the country is in need of a unifying force to carry it through the next chapter of its history. I fear that the views expressed by the country’s current leadership are only validating such stigmatizing comments.
Hadley Stewart is a London-based writer, broadcaster and journalist.

August 29, 2019

The LGBT Asylum Seekers in Ireland Face Surmountable Obstacles In Getting To Dream Land

By Cormac O'Brien
DUBLIN, Ireland, June 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Afef arrived in Ireland from Tunisia in early 2015 she could not believe her luck at being able to go safely to gay bars and be open about her sexuality.
In her home country she had been forced to hide the fact that she was a lesbian from her family, her friends and, most importantly, from the authorities as same-sex relationships are illegal in Tunisia and punishable by three years imprisonment.
When her disapproving brother found out she was gay she was forced to flee.
"It's something prohibited, forbidden and unforgivable, and going back I can get attacked by my brother," Afef told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a meeting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers in Dublin.
"That's my past and it's not a good past. Here you have total freedom."
Afef, a slight woman aged in her mid-20s, is one of a rising number of LGBT people in Ireland seeking asylum due to fears of being persecuted for their sexuality in their home countries.
Ireland made history in 2015 as the first country to legalize gay marriage by a popular vote, with 62 percent voting in a referendum in favor of gay marriage in the Irish Republic that was once dominated by the Catholic Church.
Ireland this month formally elected its first openly gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar.
But the asylum seekers find their bids to build new lives in Ireland keep hitting obstacles, getting bogged down in a slow, laborious system that has been criticized both domestically and internationally with proposed changes slow to take effect. 
Asylum seekers applying for refugee status in Ireland are provided with accommodation and food at hostels known as direct provision centers and given a weekly stipend of about 20 Euros ($22) but they are cannot work or access further education.
Afef, who did not want to use her full name for fear of reprisals, said this made it difficult to settle and become financially stable as the process could take years and the lack of transparency in the system was a massive frustration.
"If they say within two years, you get your answer and finish the whole process it's fine. But some people can spend 10 years and some people can spend one. Basically, you know nothing," she said at a meeting of the Identity LGBT Refugee Support group at the Irish Refugee Council.
Hailing from Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Gambia and Tunisia, all of the 35 regular members of the group are claiming asylum in Ireland based on their LGBT status.
They only get together about once a month as many live outside Dublin and struggle with the cost to travel to meetings but they do stay in touch on social networks and WhatsApp.
For while many of the group viewed Ireland as a safe haven, being LGBT in the asylum system has its own difficulties as many face threats and intimidation from other asylum seekers in the centers, said Brian Collins from the Irish Refugee Council.
Afef said one man in her center harassed her constantly.
"That's why we created the group. Some of us know about lawyer stuff. Some of us know about housing. Some of us know about the communities around," said another group member who requested anonymity.
"We need that so we can support each other."

Afef, an asylum seeker from Tunisia who wished to maintain anonymity,
during an interview with
the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dublin, Ireland on April 28, 2017. 
Thomson Reuters Foundation/Cormac O'Brien
There are no statistics on the number of LGBT people seeking asylum in Ireland but there are almost 5,000 in the system overall, housed in about 32 centers around Ireland, according to recent figures from the Reception and Integration Agency set up in 2001 to coordinate services to asylum seekers and refugees.
It's a system that has come under fire from human rights watchdogs in Ireland as well as internationally with reports of people languishing in a system for up to 15 years.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission described the system as a "severe violation of human rights" in 2015 because of the time it took to process applications.
While Amnesty International has urged Ireland to expedite reforms of its direct provision accommodation, a system set up as a temporary emergency measure in 2000, as this was regarded as unsuitable for long-stay residence, especially for families children and victims of torture.
With calls for change mounting, Ireland's International Protections Office has committed to speeding up decisions for asylum seekers while the Irish Supreme Court in May 2017 ruled denying asylum seekers the right to work was unconstitutional.
Activists welcomed the proposed changes around employment.
But Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director for the European unit of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), cautioned fast-tracking applications could end up hurting the most vulnerable groups of asylum seekers – including LGBT individuals.
"If you look at the accelerated procedures, that leaves people with very little time to prove their sexual orientation," she said because LGBT asylum seekers need to provide evidence to back up their claim of LGBT persecution to get asylum. 
The Identity group, set up in 2016, is supported by an asylum seekers' theatre group, Change of Address, and the Irish Refugee Council. Theatre director and co-founder of Identity, Oonagh Murphy, said they used crowdfunding to bring a group of LGBT asylum seekers in Ireland to attend the Dublin Gay Pride March in 2015 and it grew from there into a support group.
"You come to Ireland, a tiny island at the edge of Europe, the last thing you expect is to be put back into close living arrangements from that culture," Murphy said.
Maverick from Zimbabwe arrived in Ireland in May 2015 and is awaiting a decision on his asylum application.
"I was a bit nervous before I met the LGBT group, but it's getting a little bit better now," said the 27-year-old motor mechanic who faced jail if found to be gay in Zimbabwe.
"Last year I really had fun. We danced on the street," he said. "Of course back home, you get killed for that."
($1 = 0.8951 euros)
(Reporting by Cormac O'Brien, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change, and resilience. Visit

July 19, 2019

LGBT Are Exempt From “Remain in Mexico” Policy

                        Image result for gay asylum in mexico

Asylum-seekers who arrive at the southern border and claim to be LGBT are exempt from the U.S.-Mexico “Remain in Mexico” policy and will not be returned to Mexico to await decisions by U.S. immigration judges, several U.S. border officials told the Washington Examiner.

"Mexican immigration is not taking anybody back into Mexico under the MPP [Migration Protection Protocols] program that’s identifying as part of the LGBT community. If they say they’re gay or bisexual, any of those, Mexico won’t take them back,” one official said.

Rank-and-file officers working at ports of entry as well as agents who process asylum-seekers who have illegally crossed from Mexico and are to be returned south of the border are well aware asylum-seekers who identify as LGBT are not eligible for the program, according to three senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Border Patrol Council officials.  

The first official suggested the department has kept it hush-hush out of fear non-LGBT people would attempt to exploit the loophole to gain immediate entry because “there is no standard — no way to prove” a person’s claim is true or false.

"They really don’t want that to get out. And I would imagine the Mexican government doesn’t want that to get out either," the first official said. "As soon as everybody has figured out to say, 'I am gay,' then I would imagine that that dirty little secret would be used.”

A senior border official said there was no known written proof of the exemption and suggested it was intentionally withheld from documents so that the public did not learn about it. The official said the U.S. implemented the policy not because Mexico did not want to accept LGBT people but because that population would be at greater risk of personal harm if forced to remain in the country.

“If the policy exists, it would make sense. The MPP is and will undergo a number of legal challenges, and if we return individuals whom we know are vulnerable to Mexico and they are harmed, the MPP will face more court challenges which could be harmful to the program. Again, nothing confirmed, and I'm not aware of any such cases, but the rumor is making the rounds," a senior border official shared with the Washington Examiner Monday evening.

The official public three-page description of MPP by Homeland Security makes no mention of this specific exempted class or any other group that is not allowed to return south of the border. Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

A separate internal list of exempted classes provided to the Washington Examiner outlines more than a handful of exempted people Mexico will not take back but does not mention people who are LGBT.

“Aliens in the following categories are NOT amenable to the MPP: UACs [Unaccompanied Alien Children]; Mexican Citizens/Nationals; Aliens processed for ERs [Expedited Removals]; Aliens in special circumstances such as known physical (including pregnancy) or mental health issues; criminals/history of violence; or Government of Mexico or U.S. Government interest; or Other aliens at the discretion of the CPA [Chief Patrol Agent],” the document states.

Mexico also will not receive back any person with a medical issue.

Up until December, the existing policy mandated any person who arrived at a port of entry and passed a credible fear screening for asylum could stay in the U.S. while his or her claim made its way through the legal system and was eventually decided by a federal immigration judge, which can take two to five years.

As illegal crossings at the southern border increased each month through late 2018, the Trump administration worked with Mexico to find a way to prevent people from being allowed into the country while their claims were considered.

Six months ago, both countries announced the MPP, which would require migrants who make a claim at select ports of entry, or border crossings, to return to Mexico until their asylum adjudication date.

The program was aimed at Central Americans, who comprised 90% of those apprehended at the border in fiscal 2019.

September 7, 2018

This HIV Gay Man Had No Choice But to Seek Asylum in Moscow

In mid-July, a gay, HIV-positive foreigner arrived at an immigration office in Moscow seeking asylum in Russia. Unlike in his native Uzbekistan, where sex between men is punishable by up to three years in prison, Russia has not criminalized homosexual relations.

But as he and his lawyer discussed his case with an immigration officer, their interlocutor made clear she had no sympathy for people like him.

"If it were up to me, they would all be put up against a wall," the officer with the Moscow branch of the Russian Interior Ministry's Main Directorate of Migration Affairs said, according to audio of the conversation obtained by RFE/RL.

At one point in the conversation, the officer, who said she herself hailed from the applicant's Central Asian homeland, switched to the man's native language to express her disapproval of the man's sexual orientation.

"Cursed be your father. Do you understand me, dog?" she is heard saying in Uzbek.
The officer's comments are now the subject of a formal complaint to Russian authorities by the applicant's lawyer on behalf of a rare subset of individuals seeking refuge in Russia: gay men.

Advocacy groups have registered a spike in asylum applications by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Russians in the West since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial 2013 law that bans "promoting..nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
But the number of people fleeing to Russia from governments with more restrictive laws on same-sex relations remains exceedingly small, according to Russian activists who work with such asylum seekers.

That number jumped slightly when Russia hosted the World Cup this summer, as some foreign gay men obtained official fan passes for the soccer tournament and sought refuge after arriving in the country, according to Varvara Tretyak, a counselor with the Civic Assistance Committee, a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization that helps refugees and forced migrants.
'They Think It's Like Europe'
Some of the gay men fleeing to Russia, such as the Uzbek man cited in the complaint by his lawyer, hail from predominantly Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where they risk criminal prosecution and unofficial persecution due to their sexual orientation.

While those applicants have a certain grasp on Russian realities, Tretyak says that others -- such as applicants from Africa -- were unaware of the trajectory of LGBT rights in Russia, which rights groups and Western officials have accused of fostering discrimination and emboldening violence against sexual minorities in recent years.

"They think that it's like Europe in Russia, and that they've found a safe space. And, of course, they are very disappointed when they apply for asylum because there they encounter very strong homophobia from officials who insult them," Tretyak told RFE/RL in a telephone interview.
Antigay protesters attack a gay-rights activist during an LGBT rally in central Moscow in May 2015.
Antigay protesters attack a gay-rights activist during an LGBT rally in central Moscow in May 2015.
Putin and other officials deny that Russia discriminates against sexual minorities and have said the so-called "gay-propaganda" law enacted in 2013 ismerely aimed at protecting children
Anton Ryzhov, a lawyer for the Russian LGBT organization Stimul representing the Uzbek man who was called a "dog" by the immigration officer, said he and his colleagues decided to file a formal complaint with the Interior Ministry in order to change what he called a "vicious" system for those seeking asylum and refugee status in Russia.

"We agreed that we won't just ignore it and will try to shine a light on this issue, otherwise it will happen again to everyone we bring in," added Ryzhov, who said he submitted the complaint by mail this week on behalf of the Uzbek man and gay men from Turkmenistan, Nigeria, and Cameroon seeking refugee status in Russia.

The complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by RFE/RL, accuses immigration officers dealing with refugees and asylum seekers of stonewalling Ryzhov's clients by demanding evidence that they are gay during the initial application.
'Everything Was So Great Under Stalin'
Russia is not alone in demanding evidence of sexual orientation from LGBT asylum seekers. The United States, for example, requires such proof as well, said Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for the New York-based Immigration Equality.

"For refugees fleeing a country where it is unsafe or even a crime to be LGBTQ, it can be immensely difficult to provide 'evidence,' as many are forced to live entirely in the closet for fear of being killed," Yodashkin wrote in an e-mail. 

But Ryzhov said the issue of evidence is to be considered at a later stage, noting that Russian law allows anyone the right to apply for asylum or refugee status.

"Authorities are required to accept [the application]. But they can't even do that," he said.

Ryzhov's complaint also accuses immigration officers of "insults and discrimination" against his clients.

The complaint cites several other remarks by the immigration officer to the gay Uzbek applicant, including her reference to HIV-positive individuals as "AIDS boys" and her remarks that it is "too bad that they developed a treatment" for the disease.

"A disgrace to society," the officer says during the exchange, according to the audio obtained by RFE/RL.

After the applicant says he hopes that he would eventually be allowed to marry his partner in Russia, the officer suggests he try his luck in Uzbekistan, whose deputy justice minister said in May that international calls for greater LGBT rights in the former Soviet republic are not on Tashkent's agenda.
After Ryzhov and his client point out that criminal punishment for homosexual relations is still on the books in Uzbekistan, the officer appeared to long for a return to the Soviet-era criminalization of sexual activity between men.

"Everything was so great under Stalin," she said.​
The Russian Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the immigration officer's recorded remarks to the Uzbek asylum seeker or Ryzhov's objection to the treatment of his clients.

A ministry spokeswoman told RFE/RL that the inquiry was received on September 5 and had been passed along to its migrant-affairs directorate.
'It's Not As Bad As In Cameroon'
Thierry, a gay Cameroonian man in his late 20s, said he was unaware of what rights watchdogs call a deteriorating situation for LGBT rights in Russia when he decided to apply for refugee status there this year.

"I didn't know about [the 2013 'gay-propaganda' law]. I learned about it after coming to Russia," Thierry, whose case is cited in Ryzhov's complaint, told RFE/RL in a telephone interview.

Thierry, who agreed to speak on condition that his last name not be published, said he and his boyfriend were attacked "physically and verbally" in Cameroon after people learned that he was gay. He said he was also physically abused by his father and other relatives.

"My mother tried to support me by telling me to leave the country," he said.
Thierry said he ended up in Russia earlier in early 2018 after around four years of trying to flee Cameroon, where same-sex sexual relations are a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.
A rainbow-colored ribbon is tied to a crucifix next to a Russian flag fluttering atop the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg last month.
A rainbow-colored ribbon is tied to a crucifix next to a Russian flag fluttering atop the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg last month.
He says he made his way to Morocco and tried to flee to Spain by boat, and that he was rescued after the vessel capsized. An acquaintance in Morocco recommended that he go to Russia, Thierry said.

"He knew someone who could easily send us an invitation to obtain a visa. So he helped, and thank God I obtained a visa. The first time I got a visa I didn't have money for the plane ticket, so the visa I had [expired]. So I got a second visa. That's how I came to Russia. I've been here about three, four months," Thierry said.

He said he left Cameroon "because of violence, because homosexuals are not accepted" there.

"LGBT people are not accepted in Cameroon. We face problems, even death threats in some cases," Thierry said.

He said he feels "a bit more secure here in Russia than in Cameroon."

"The LGBT are not accepted here in Russia, but at least here in Moscow things are different than in Russia's other regions. There are LGBT members that hang out together -- I've found a partner -- so it's not as bad as in Cameroon," Thierry said.
Grounds For Optimism?
LGBT applicants in Russia face a steep challenge in securing asylum or refugee status in Russia. The country had a total of 598 recognized refugees in 2017, the lowest number since 2008, according to official data.
Of the 228,392 people who received temporary asylum in 2017, nearly 99 percent were from Ukraine, where fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv's forces in the east have killed more than 10,300 since April 2014.

Tretyak of the Civic Assistance Committee said her organization doesn't know "of a single case in which an applicant was granted refugee status or temporary asylum by claiming that he or she is persecuted in their homeland due to their sexual orientation."

Regarding the six LGBT applicants in Russia the group has worked with this year, Tretyak said: "We're very interested to see what immigration services say this time about why they decide not to grant these individuals refugee status."

But there may be some grounds for optimism for the asylum seekers.

Anastasia Soltanovskaya, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Russia, told RFE/RL that while Interior Ministry data shows that "very few" people receive refugee status in Russia, "we have had LGBTI cases that received temporary asylum.
RFE/RL correspondents Golnaz Esfandiari, Merkhat Sharipzhanov, and Sirojiddin Tolibov contributed to this report.

January 17, 2018

LGBTQ Asylum Seekers Find A Place to Call Home in Britain

The slender and feminine El Salvadorian had almost got used to incessant verbal abuse but having to share rooms with other male asylum seekers was what Sami feared for the most.

“I was scared to death,” said Sami, 20, who arrived in Britain in 2016 and was first housed in temporary accommodation in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool with other asylum seekers.

“It was hard to be sharing with another male whom I didn’t know and especially because I am a bit feminine. All that time it was at the back of my head, who is going to be coming into the room? You could be asleep and just get attacked.”

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical notions of male or female bodies. Up to 1.7 percent of people are born with intersex traits, according to the United Nations.

Sami, who asked to use a pseudonym, is one of the more than 3,500 people who claimed asylum in Britain based on their sexuality, gender identity or intersex status between 2015 and 2017, according to the Home Office (interior ministry).

Sami faced threats and discrimination in El Salvador, a conservative Catholic country where gay sex is not illegal but lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTi) people endure harassment and violence.

They face rocketing levels of violence from criminal gangs and members of the security forces, rights group Amnesty International said last November.

In more than 70 countries being LGBTi is not safe, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), a federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights LGBTi people.

Even though Britain is more tolerant, LGBTi asylum seekers still face discrimination, threats and even violent attacks, said Sebastian Rocca, chief executive of Micro Rainbow International (MRI), a charity working to eliminate discrimination and poverty among LGBTi people.

“One of the problems that LGBTi asylum seekers and refugees face is that because of their sexuality they are extremely isolated and vulnerable,” Rocca said.

Lack of safe housing is a widespread problem as they are often placed in housing with people from their own countries, or with those who are anti-gay because of their religious and cultural backgrounds.

“The majority of LGTBi asylum seekers do face some violence or abuse, whether that’s physical, sexual or psychological abuse,” Rocca told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Such abuse reawakens previous traumas. MRI’s clients have reported experiencing the same fears they felt in their home countries, Rocca said.


MRI set up Britain’s first safe house for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers last October and has since opened a second one.

Apart from safe accommodation, residents are provided with psychological support, life-coaching and business training.

Sami moved in last autumn and, for the first time in years, feels safe and at home. 
“The fear and uncertainty living in these other places were killing me. Now I finally feel safe because I live with people who respect me,” Sami told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the cozy house on the outskirts of London.

 “I know I can wake up and just do my makeup and be able to fully express myself without having to be afraid that someone is going to attack me or that someone is going to be judging me.”
Malik, a gay man from Bangladesh, who came to Britain in 2011, agrees.
“Since I moved into the house, I‘m happy. I have found a family,” said Malik, 35, in whose home country gay sex is illegal and many people strongly disapprove.

Leading LGBT rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death in Bangladesh in April 2016, amid a spate of violent attacks against secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists and members of religious minorities.

Malik found out for himself how entrenched anti-gay attitudes are in his country when his mother disowned him and his brothers threatened to kill him.  
“Last time I talked to my mum, she told me ‘you just humiliate me, don’t come back’. And I can’t go back because my brothers are going to kill me,” Malik said, sitting on his bed in a bright, well-furnished room in the safe house.
Malik said he used to live with heterosexual people in Britain and even though he was never physically attacked, he suffered verbal abuse, especially from other Bangladeshis.
“They don’t attack just physically but mentally attack the whole time,” he said.


Home Office data shows an estimated 6 percent of asylum claims made in Britain between July 2015 and March 2017 were based on sexual orientation. Around a quarter of those applications were successful.

The nationalities with the highest number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised were Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nigerian.

The Home Office said it “remains committed to improving the process for those claiming asylum on this basis” and that it ensures housing provide to LGBT asylum seekers is safe.

“Housing providers are contractually required to take account of any particular circumstances and vulnerability of those that they accommodate, including sexual orientation or gender identity,” a Home Office spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Campaigners say a lack of protection for LGBT asylum seekers is a widespread problem in Europe. In Germany, LGBT asylum seekers have complained about intimidating comments made during their asylum interviews. In Ireland, many face threats and from other asylum seekers in accommodation centers.

Rights groups blame the problem on a lack of basic training on LGBTQ rights for those making decisions about asylum claims and interpreters.

MRI, which supports eight asylum seekers and refugees with safe housing, says much more is needed and aims to provide safe housing for more than 150 LGBT asylum seekers by 2019.

“The need in this country is massive. There are hundreds of LGBT asylum seekers every year who need a safe place to be,” said Rocca.

Reporting by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit
*picture: by Keala on

November 30, 2017

The Fight For LGBT Asylum Seekers Out of Ukraine Just Got Tougher

Soldado Kowalisidi had fought for LGBT rights in Siberia since 2012, and had come out as a transgender man in 2015, when last year he finally sought shelter in Ukraine, convinced he couldn’t continue his work in Russia anymore. Russia had just passed legislation widely known as the “Yarovaya package” — twin anti-terrorism laws that dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance powers. As one of Siberia’s first openly transgender activists, Kowalisidi had long been a target for Russia’s security service, and for homophobic gangs.
Ukraine, he hoped, would offer him protection.
He was wrong. The 25-year-old was last month denied refugee status by Ukraine’s migration service, his case the latest in a string that human rights activists believe could be the result of discrimination. Just the week before Kowalisidi’s verdict, a Ukrainian court had sided with the migration service in its decision to deny another LGBT activist, Belarusian Edward Tarletsky, refugee status the previous year. 
Human rights activists say the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is symptomatic of Ukraine’s attitude toward the wider LGBT community. Homophobia remains prevalent across the country at a time when Ukraine is preparing to take a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the 2018–2020 term, following its election in October. That means Ukraine will soon hold others accountable for their human rights record while it still faces questions about its treatment of sexual minorities.
One caseworker handling Kowalisidi’s application had no idea what a transgender person was. A second was more blunt. “If you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery, you are a woman,” Kowalisidi recalls the officer telling him. The interviews, he says, made him feel as though he were at fault for being transgender. For sure, Ukraine’s migration service isn’t welcoming in any case for asylum seekers, irrespective of why they’re seeking shelter in a foreign land — only 71 applicants out of 656 received protection in 2016. But human rights advocates say minorities such as the LGBT community face further discrimination. (A migration service spokesperson said they had no knowledge about discrimination within the body.)
Oleksandra Lukianenko, a lawyer at Right to Protection, a refugee-aid nongovernmental organization, says officers at the migration service are not trained enough to work with this vulnerable category of people, and don’t understand their fear of returning to their home countries. This, she says, leads to the rejection of their claims. Her nonprofit is currently working with four LGBT asylum seekers, none of whom have so far been granted protection.

People hold placards reading 'Members of parliament do not be indifferent', 'We all equal, we all worthy' during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
People hold placards reading “Members of Parliament, do not be indifferent” and “We all equal, we all worthy” during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of the LGBT community.
For the moment, the total number of LGBT asylum seekers applying for shelter in Ukraine is small, says Anna Kuznyetsova, a resettlement associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ukraine. Though exact numbers are unclear, Kuznyetsova says these cases are new for the migration service, only really emerging in the past two years.
That may appear to partly explain the ignorance Kowalisidi experienced. But Ukraine faces a deeper challenge, suggests Irene Fedorovych, project coordinator at the nonprofit Social Action Centre in Ukraine. The country, she says, receives LGBT refugees but also produces them. Ukraine, she adds, has never been “very human rights orientated,” an approach reflected in how authorities handle LGBT cases. “When you start talking to them, they genuinely do not understand that their attitude is part of what we call discrimination,” she says.
It was a very different Ukraine that activists had envisioned following the Maidan revolution, which ousted Russian-allied President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The country, they had hoped, would adopt a more progressive attitude toward the LGBT community as part of its new pro-European rhetoric. But there has been little improvement either socially or legally on protections for the community, says Olena Shevchenko, executive director of LGBT nonprofit Insight. Just two weeks ago, a gay couple from Odessa fled Ukraine, fearing for their lives after they were targeted in a homophobic attack. “We have a pride parade now,” Shevchenko says. “But we would like to feel safe at other times of the year too.”

Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017 during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017, during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Officially, the UNHCR says it has not received any complaints of discrimination against LGBT applicants while seeking asylum in Ukraine. It has, however, resettled four LGBT asylum seekers who were turned away by Ukraine in third countries, since 2015. It will also this year partner with the European Asylum Support Office to train migration-service caseworkers how to assess with sensitivity claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
And while Ukraine is expected to use its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council to highlight Moscow’s abuses in Crimea and parts of Donbas that are under Russian occupation, next year’s membership could cut both ways. “With a seat on the council, the spotlight on the human rights situation of the members is that much brighter,” says Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez. “We would expect with a seat on the council that they would [take their] human rights obligations that much more seriously.”
For those expectations to turn into reality may take time, though. And for Kowalisidi, who is in the process of appealing the decision of the migration service, it may be too late by then.
  • Natalie Vikhrov, OZY Author

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