Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Expulsion of Transactivist in Conflict with Danish Policy.

 My translation of article in Danish newspaper Homotropolis...

September 12th, 2012 Homotropolis

Everything indicates that if the transgender human rights and LGBT activist Fernanda Milán is expelled from Denmark to Guatemala on Monday, she will be in danger. The Refugee Board’s decision arouses indignation and amazement.

On Monday, human rights and LGBT activist Fernanda Milán will be deported to Guatemala, where she is at serious risk of assault, torture and death. This is not just Fernandas own assessment of the situation in Guatemala, but also the view of senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Ninna Nyberg Sorensen, who for has many years studied the situation in the Central American country. Nyberg Sørensen says that Denmark is already fully aware of the risk to which we expose Fernanda Milán, by condemning her to deportation, she cannot understand the decision:

“That LGBT people in Guatemala suffer from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment - that included threats of violence, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence in prisons and other institutions, and medical testing without prior consent - is not only known among national, regional and international human rights people, but also by the Danish state.

Denmark, has since 1992 supported human rights organizations in Guatemala and the Pan-American Human Rights System. The Danish development system has continued to receive reports from organizations it funds, in which murders and assaults on activists have been clear. Why does the Refugee Board not have this knowledge relating to the treatment of Fernanda Milan’s asylum case?”

Refugee Board failure

The Asylum Working Party, T-Refugee Project, which is committed to Fernandas case, is also dismayed by the decision.

“It seems completely obvious to us that the Refugee Board has not done an adequate job in this case. The decision to refuse asylum has been taken without all relevant information being included in the decision, and obviously this shouldn’t be allowed.” says Emil Cronjäger in a press release, and backed by Stine Larsen, also from T-Refugee Project:

“It may surprise many as to why this knowledge has not been taken into account when the Danish government has known about it for years. It seems frankly like shoddy work, and I do not think that it puts Denmark in a particularly positive light when we on the one hand support human rights work around the world, while on the other, deport even those openly persecuted by torture and killings. It is deeply hypocritical and directly subversive of the foreign policy set by the Government. So they cannot both say that they support human rights and simultaneously expel a person like Fernanda Milán. It simply makes no sense, "said Stine Larsen.

Reasoned and well-documented fears

Ninna Nyberg Sørensen, amongst other things, an expert in gender, migration and deportation in Central America, has a thorough knowledge of the situation of human rights activists and LGBT people in Guatemala, and says it the prospects are not good.

“Fernanda Milan's fears are not unfounded. Over the summer of 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern over the murders of first a 19-year-old trans woman in Guatemala City (28 June), then two trans women in Villanueva (July 9), and finally the murder of a Honduran transgender person in Guatemalan territory (11 July). Local trans and human rights organizations report murders or 'forced disappearances' of at least 30 transgender people in Guatemala from 2009-2010. In the period 2005-2008 reported killing of approx. 50 LGBT people. The bodies are often terribly mauled, it is not uncommon that genitals are cut off, or that the body is dismembered to send out a warning that only heterosexual gender identity and practice will be accepted. A report from March 2012 estimated the average life expectancy of transgender people in Guatemala to be 25 years”

Demands for Justice minister’s involvement

Emil Cronjäger from T-Refugee Project also emphasizes in its press release that the Danish government has a direct responsibility for Fernanda Milan's fate and urges the Minister of Justice to investigate:

“If Denmark does not change its decision in this case, we are directly complicit in the abuses to which Fernanda Milán will be exposed in Guatemala. Responsibility cannot be swept away with the claim that there wasn’t enough evidence about the local situation, we now have many years evidence about this. It cannot be swept away by arguing Fernanda is not personally persecuted: She's been attacked and threatened repeatedly, including by the national police PNC.

“Just the fact that she is transgender should in itself be enough that she should not be expelled. This group is so extremely exposed, as it is. When you then include the fact that she has been a figurehead for human rights organization OASIS, whose leading members the last few years have been murdered indiscriminately, then it's completely outrageous that the Refugee Board chooses to continue to reject her application. I sincerely hope that it is an error by the authorities and not a general pattern or a conscious decision.
“If we choose to maintain this decision, Denmark is not just on a collision course with the UN Refugee commission's crystal clear statements about persecution based on gender and gender identity as a basis for asylum. We are also helping to undermine our own foreign policy to strengthen human rights around the world. I invite the Minister of Justice to take up this matter and reverse this decision, so we are not complicit in human rights abuses and so we do not put our own foreign policy to shame.” Says Emil Cronjager

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