Safe havens needed for LGBTI people fleeing persecution

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people suffer persecution in many places around the world. On this year’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) calls for greater efforts to provide sanctuary to LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees.

“People are facing persecution or even the death penalty simply because of their sexual orientation,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “EU law guarantees safety to those fleeing persecution, but in practice LGBTI people are not receiving the protection they so desperately need. More has to be done to ensure the EU is a safe haven for those fleeing their home countries in fear of their lives.”

In its laws and policies, the EU recognises the homophobic hatred and discrimination that has driven many people to seek asylum on our shores. The EU’s Court of Justice has also provided guidance to Member States. Its rulings have helped to clarify how LGBTI asylum claims should be assessed, for example by stipulating that people fleeing from countries that criminalise same-sex acts are eligible for international protection.

However, much still remains to be done, as a recent FRA report on the human rights situation of LGBTI asylum seekers entering the EU revealed. The urgency of stepping up efforts in this area is manifest from recent reports of the detention and ill-treatment of a number of men on the basis of their assumed homosexuality. Such events are clear evidence that EU governments need to expedite the use of humanitarian visas and refugee resettlement programmes to assist LGBTI people in imminent danger in their home countries.

Guidance is also needed for frontline migration, border staff and asylum officers to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to evaluate LGBTI asylum claims. Sufficient time to properly assess claims is needed, as well as training to challenge stereotypical views on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the 21st century, there is no place for prejudice and persecution of anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To uphold the human rights commitments they have made, the EU and its Member States can and should significantly improve the protection afforded to LGBTI asylum seekers – the protection to which they are entitled.