LGBTI asylum seekers lack adequate support

Significant numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people have come to Europe fleeing persecution in their home countries but asylum barriers hinder them from receiving the protection they are entitled to. These are some of the findings from the latest summary report of FRA on migration-related fundamental rights concerns in selected EU Member States. It examines some of the difficulties LGBTI asylum seekers face in order to draw attention to gaps in their protection.

Access the LGBTI focus section and the March monthly data collection highlights.

Nearly 80 countries worldwide still criminalise sexual orientation; in five the sentence can be death. Although such persecution is a ground for claiming asylum under EU law, official figures are not collected, making it difficult to assess numbers of LGBTI applicants. However, civil society estimates of those seeking help, point to significant numbers. For example, in The Netherlands, one organisation alone was contacted by up to 3000 applicants.

While the EU offers sanctuary to LGBTI people who may be tormented in their home countries, many Member States are failing to adequately support LGBTI asylum seekers, as this latest report shows. Some of the report’s main findings include:

  1. Only a few Member States have national guidelines or training on interviewing LGBTI people.
  2. Interviews are often too short to specifically assess claims of LGBTI persecution. This is particularly problematic as applicants may be uncomfortable about revealing intimate aspects of their life.
  3. Asylum officers also tend to have stereotypical views on sexual orientation or gender identity such as knowledge of gay bars in their home country which applicants may not be aware of if they have lived in anti-LGBTI societies. In addition, interpreters may also have an anti-LGBTI bias.
  4. However, the report points to how civil society support has significantly improved the handling of asylum cases and applicants’ openness towards asylum authorities.
  5. When it comes to reception conditions, in most Member States there are no special accommodation facilities for LGBTI people. However, special measures – such as transfers to single rooms – can often be used in cases of abuse or harassment but such hate crime tends not to be reported or recorded.
  6. Again LGBTI awareness training for reception centre staff is not systematic and is often provided by NGOs who also provide information leaflets.
  7. Transgender people often also face additional difficulties, especially when it comes to continuing their hormonal treatment. Treatment for asylum seekers may either be simply unavailable or on a case-by-case basis.

The report also identifies promising practices that have been developed by, for example, Europe’s Asylum Support Office that other Member States could use to support LGBTI asylum seekers.

The European Commission asked the Agency to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States, particularly affected by large migration movements. The reports cover 14 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. The next focus will be on education.