Sexual orientation and gender identity and the protection of forced migrants
Around the world, people face abuse, arbitrary arrest, extortion, violence, severe discrimination and lack of official protection because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This latest issue of FMR includes 26 articles on the abuse of rights of forced migrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Authors discuss both the challenges faced and examples of good practice in securing protection for LGBTI forced migrants.
Recognition that LGBT rights are universal rights is gaining ground. The trend, finally, is positive. But greater respect for LGBT rights and inclusion of LGBT people still is not a worldwide movement.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers and refugees face a myriad of threats, risks and vulnerabilities throughout all stages of the displacement cycle. There needs to be greater awareness not only of the specific protection concerns relating to LGBTI individuals but also of related jurisprudence and guidance available for UN staff, partners, state authorities and decision-makers.
Many LGBT forced migrants have significant and sometimes incapacitating psychological scars. Mental health providers can assist in documenting the psychological impact of anti-LGBT persecution and its impact on the ability to secure refugee status.
Discrimination, verbal abuse and physical and sexual violence follow Burmese LGBTI people who cross into Thailand to seek shelter in camps.
A number of positive developments have occurred over the past two decades to create more robust protection and community support within Canada – but recent legislative changes will jeopardise fairness and justice for LGBT refugee claimants.
Recent research indicates that CEE countries still lag far behind the rest of Europe in their asylum practices in relation to LGBTI asylum claims. Low levels of awareness, lack of guidance and cultural hostility are jeopardising asylum seekers’ prospects for fair treatment.
Although no international legal instrument exists to specifically protect the human rights of LGBTI individuals, over recent years international legal bodies have interpreted basic human rights provisions to apply to LGBTI populations.
Public policies in defence and in favour of LGBT people are neither sufficient nor effective in reducing homophobic violence in Brazil.
The amended version of the EU Qualification Directive, adopted in 2011, marks further progress in ensuring LGBTI applicants’ rights by explicitly adding gender identity alongside sexual orientation as a cause of persecution.
The UK government used to have no specific guidance or training for decision-makers for claims brought on the grounds of sexual orientation. It was only in 2010 following a combination of judicial, civil society and political pressures that specific policy guidance was speedily issued and significant progress was seen.
Many aspects of the UK asylum process can be confusing, disempowering and traumatic for lesbian asylum seekers. Recent research examines the impacts of this process on their experiences, their identity and their well-being.
In recent years, there have been significant legal advances in the treatment of the cases of lesbian and gay asylum seekers in the UK. However, significant barriers still remain.
Two recent successful claims for asylum suggest that the Republic of Korea may be prepared to serve in the future as an important country of asylum for those suffering persecution due to their sexual orientation.
Evaluations of whether LGB asylum claimants have a well-founded fear of persecution frequently require Country of Origin Information but information on LGB populations in countries where being LGB is criminalised is often difficult to obtain.
It can be challenging for all asylum seekers to demonstrate that they are at risk of persecution but perhaps even more so for transgender applicants.
Rising numbers of people from Kosovo are seeking asylum in other European countries on grounds of persecution for their sexual orientation. States considering such claims need to look beyond Kosovo’s apparently progressive constitution to the rather different reality on the ground.
In 2009 the city council of Bogotá introduced a policy to guarantee equal rights for LGBT people in the city.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees face myriad challenges within the resettlement context. Practical initiatives – such as creating a welcoming space, ensuring confidentiality, training staff, providing critical resources and fostering inclusive workplaces – can promote a more humane resettlement experience.
US refugee resettlement agencies are directing more attention and effort toward assisting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and best practices are beginning to emerge.
As states increasingly use detention as a means of controlling migration flows, sexual minority migrants find themselves in detention facilities where they may face multiple violations of their human rights.
The US has taken some positive steps to improve the treatment of gay and transgender asylum seekers in immigration detention but could make improvements in four key areas.
Expression of non-conforming sexual orientation and gender identity depends on social, legal, cultural and political opportunities which provide space for exploration and the emergence of new identities. People’s protection will also depend on these.
Despite a challenging protection environment, an assistance programme for LGBTI refugees in Nairobi offers examples of good practice that could be replicated in other urban settings.
Agencies need to be mindful of the special needs of LGBTI victims of disasters in order to enhance protection and minimise unintended harmful consequences of relief efforts.
LGBT aid workers and their managers confront a number of dilemmas in deciding whether LGBT staff will be safe – and accepted – working in certain countries.
Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
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