EU Backs Asylum Rights for Trans People


The European Union (EU) has adopted binding rules on asylum which, in a world first, include transgender people. The new rules also cover lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Until now, each EU country had its own rules and practices. The new rules are part of a ‘harmonization’ process and with their passage by the European Parliament on Thursday, now apply to all EU Member States except the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of EU asylum policies. Due to access the EU in July 2013, Croatia is also expected to adapt its asylum laws.

The resolution adopted specifies that “gender related aspects, including gender identity, shall be given due consideration.” Before, EU countries could still choose not to consider aspects linked to the applicant’s gender in asylum claims.

The resolution was successfully drafted and negotiated by Jean Lambert, a British Member of the European Parliament in the Greens/EFA group.

This is the first time any binding EU rule includes gender identity.

In April, the European Parliament narrowly voted on including various LGBT asylum measures in a resolution on harmonizing asylum procedures across the EU. This included expanding the definition of groups of asylum-seekers ‘with special needs’ to include people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In September, leaked diplomatic cables obtained by the French news website suggested resistance from a number of countries to LGBT being included in the ‘special needs’ definition, but this opposition has been overcome.

Dennis de Jong MEP, Vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup of European MPs and responsible for asylum policies in the GUE/NGL group, commented:

“Around the world, transgender people can be persecuted for who they are. This reviewed Directive will recognise the danger they face, and it will commit EU Member States to taking gender identity into account in asylum claims. I hope in a future revision it will also become mandatory to consider the sexual orientation of applicants.”

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, added:

“I am very proud that my colleagues from the centre-right EPP group supported this change, regardless of the views they hold on asylum in general. The European Union is only starting to recognise gender identity as a ground of persecution, but I hope today’s vote will help protect more lives.”

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs said:

“The agreement also sends a strong political signal on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention. The current events in our neighbourhood show that we must have safe, transparent and efficient procedures for those who turn to us and seek protection.”

Although transgender and lesbian and gay people have won asylum in a number of other countries, including the United States, refugee protection for them remains patchy.


Related Stories:

More Complaints on Treatment of LGBT Refugee and Immigrant Detainees

In Pakistan’s Floods, Trans People ‘Languishing Silently in Pain’

Will the Commonwealth Finally Discuss Homosexuality?


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Robert Tedders
Robert T6 years ago

About. damn. time.

Gina P.
Regina P6 years ago

Past time, but at least they did it. Now if the rest of the world could or would just catch up!

Stefanie W.
Past Member 6 years ago

Glad to read this.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley6 years ago

Good beginning.

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

Good start, now we need the rest of the world in the race. The definer should be 'people who keep their pants on in public', not some activity they do in private. Dæmonise homophobia!

Maria Cristina A.
Maria Cristina A6 years ago

It's about time... Great news!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Kimberly B.
Kimberly B6 years ago

Thank you EU for showing humanity. Shame the UK, Ireland, and Denmark opted out of asylum, but kudos to the rest of your nations.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

This is a postive step in the right direction.