Members of the European Parliament voted this week on measures to modernize the way asylum claims are handled, with an emphasis on how asylum claims made on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are overseen.
In the past few years member states have seen an increase in asylum claims on the basis of LGBT identity. How much deference to give these claims, and how to assess claims made on the basis of an applicant’s LGBT identity have long been issues of contention.
With this week’s changes the European Parliament is seeking to clarify the obligations of member states to fairly investigate such claims, to protect the privacy of applicants and also a greater fairness in how those claims are processed.
From UK Gay News:
In a report drafted by French centre-left MEP Sylvie Guillaume (Socialists & Democrats), the European Parliament adopted a series of amendments to guarantee that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people seeking asylum in the EU would receive particular attention.
Measures include providing expert advice to asylum officials on sexual orientation and gender identity; protecting claimants’ privacy; guaranteeing that physical examinations fully respect human dignity and integrity, for instance in cases involving minors or transgender people; and ensuring that applications by LGBT asylum-seekers are not ‘fast-tracked’ for removal to their country of origin.
“This is a major step towards fully complying with our engagements under international asylum law,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen, member of the centre-right European People’s Party and vice-president of the Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup,
“I am particularly proud that my centre-right colleagues agreed on the need for special protection, regardless of their general position on asylum. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection taking into account cultural sensitivity,” she added.
Advocates point out that 76 countries currently criminalize homosexuality, whether through explicit bans or penal codes with edicts on sexual propriety, and several have the death penalty, possibly with Uganda soon to join them. Many also fail to even recognize trans identity. As such, the need for these updated policies is very real, with LGBT people often suffering real and present dangers in their home countries.
Amendments to the asylum policies were approved on first reading but will need to be examined by EU member states before it can be formally adopted and agreed upon.