Wednesday, 19 September 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Refugee Board resumes controversial case involving transgender human rights activist.

 My translation of a Press Release from T Refugee Project in Denmark

Following protests from asylum activists, human rights organisations and researchers, the refugee board has just suspended the deportation of Fernanda Milan. "This is only half the battle," says the asylum initiative, T-Refugee Project.

Activists nerves in the T-Refugee Project were raw all last week. And not without reason. According to the authorities Fernanda Milán should have been deported to Guatemala on Monday, 17 September. Fernanda and T-Refugee Project fear that expulsion will result in Fernandas death.

In the last month the group has therefore been working hard to overturn the decision, but it was not until the last minute that the news came: the Refugee Board has decided to reopen the case and her expulsion is put temporarily on hold while the case is dealt with over the next few months.

Among the activists in T-Refugee Project, there was great joy when the news came in.. They were in a meeting in Copenhagen on Monday afternoon to talk about the legal options and Fernanda's safety in Guatemala after the expulsion.

There is no reception program in Guatemala for deported people, according senior researcher at DIIS, Ninna Nyberg Sørensen, when they arrive at the airport they just end up on the street. This would be certain death for Fernanda when the date of her deportation had been known and there are people who want her dead.

Until news of the decision came, it was a 'worst case scenario' that was being discussed: “How could a rescue plan be implemented in Guatemala, so she is transported from the airport to a safe and secret place how to ensure that she has enough money to live in hiding in Guatemala, etc."

Lisa Rasmussen from T-Refugee Project started the meeting:

"Now I do not know if we have to hold this meeting. We are not under the same time pressure now. If the Refugee Board is to examine the case over the next few months, we have more time to find out what legal options we have, if  she is again refused asylum. "

The T-Refugee Project met on Monday at 4.00pm to discuss Fernanda's situation. On Friday night they were already aware that the expulsion on Monday would probably be delayed at least a few days because there was no police caseworker for the expulsion when they contacted the police to point out that there was a request for resumption of the case in the Refugee Board.

According to Stine Larsen it should be seen as an admission that refusal to grant asylum amounted to an error:

"When The Refugee Board chooses to reopen this case, it shows that we were right. We were right in that Fernanda is personally persecuted in Guatemala. We know that Fernanda is in danger in Guatemala because she is transgender and human rights activist. She is a familiar face and a model for other transgender people because she talks about their issues, because she is a fighter. So it goes without saying that there are people who want her dead. She is a political refugee. It is 100% safe, the threats and the attacks against her in Guatemala are politically motivated."

Asylum activists from the T-Refugee Project believe that the Refugee Board's handling of this issue has been very unusual. Emil Cronjäger explains:

"The Refugee Board recognizes that Fernanda is in danger in Guatemala. The problem is that they only believe she is in general danger and that they do not believe that the attacks are politically motivated. Therefore they refused asylum in the first instance.”

Stine Larsen adds:

"We have a really problematic asylum system in Denmark. Asylum rules have been tightened so hard that asylum seekers must prove that they are individually persecuted. How do you prove it? How do you prove that people want to kill you specifically and not just in general? "She asks rhetorically.

"The truth is that trans people in Guatemala are killed. So whether Fernanda was human rights activist or not, Denmark should recognize her as a refugee."

For Fernanda Milán herself, her spirits are obviously high: "This is half the battle. We have proved that it works to fight for justice. We are only halfway, but resumption of the case gives me strength to fight for my life again. "

She gives Stine a high five, and they laugh.

T-Refugee Project: / 6061 0566
Søren Laursen, retspolitisk talsperson, LGBT:

Facebook: Save Fernanda Milan, T-Refugee Project, ’Asylum for Fernanda Milán’- demonstration

T-Refugee Project Demands
Asylum for Fernanda Milán!

Minister of Justice and the Red Cross must assume responsibility for rapes in a refugee camp!

Compliance with the Refugee Convention recommendations on gender and sexuality as possible asylum criteria!

T-Refugee Project can provide contact to Fernanda Milán, a representative of T-Refugee Project, DIIS senior researcher Ninna Nyberg Sørensen and Søren Laursen from LGBT Others
T-Refugee Project is happy to make press photos available. Contact us for further information.

Fernanda Milán fled Guatemala after including being attacked and threatened by the police. She has for many years been a thorn in the side of large parts of civil society and the authorities because she is transgender and working for transgender rights in Guatemala.

Through her work in the organization OASIS Fernanda Milán received a lot of exposure as a spokesperson and model for other trans people. Therefore, Fernanda's life would be in imminent danger if she were deported to Guatemala. The deportation date is known in Guatemala, and it is therefore likely that her enemies there are ready to welcome her when she arrives at the airport.

In protest against the Refugee Board's decision, activists formed a support group, T-Refugee Project, which believes that the refusal of asylum rests on substandard legal work, which did not take into account all aspects of the case.

"The Refugee Board has simply not done their job well enough in this case," said one of the activists, Stine Larsen, who explains:

"It does not take sufficient account of the fact that Fernandas political work means that she is in imminent danger of being individually persecuted in Guatemala. Therefore, we believe that the Refugee Board should give Fernanda Milán asylum.."

The T-Refugee Project also demands that Denmark follows EU directives and recommendations from the UNHCR to include gender identity as a major factor in asylum cases[1].
The European LGBT organization ILGA is very critical of the fact that Denmark does not comply with these recommendations and that the Danish authorities have failed to protect Fernanda as she, as a trans woman was placed in a male section of Sandholm refugee camp and subsequently raped by several the residents. In March 2012 the UN human rights committee expressed concern about discrimination and violence against such transgender people in Guatemala.[2]. A situation which the Danish authorities should take seriously as Fernanda is at high risk of abuse because of her identity as a trans woman who publicly fight for the transgender rights

UNHCR (the UN refugee commission) recommends member states, and this includes Denmark, to take gender identity into account as a cause of persecution and thus eligibility for asylum. Denmark does not follow these recommendations.

Being transgender means to have a gender identity that does not match the body you were born with. For example, Fernanda Milán identifies as a woman, but is born with a male body. Being transgender is not a sexual identity in line with eg. hetero-or homosexuality. As transgender, the sexual identity can both eg hetero-or homosexual.


This post, and all translations about Fernanda Milan have a CC, Creative Commons licence and may be used freely as long as authorship is attributed

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fabulous news, maybe all the protests have made them rethink their original decision. Let us now hope that the Danish government now sees sense and grants her asylum status.
    Well done to everybody concerned