Friday, 2 November 2012

Asylum Activists cautiously applaud gender identity and sexuality recognition as criteria for granting asylum.

I have just translated the following press release for the T-Refugee Project in Denmark: 
"Gender and sexuality are now recognized as possible criteria for granting asylum, the Refugee Board has stated in a letter in response to a request from LGBT Denmark legal affairs spokesperson, Søren Laursen.
The T-Refugee Project regards the Refugee Board's letter as meaning that asylum practice has now changed with respect to, among other things, transgender and gay asylum seekers, otherwise known as LGBTIQ refugees (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer).
 A victory in principle
The change of the Refugee Board's asylum practice is an important victory in principle in the view of the T-Refugee Project, and with the change, according to the group there is now no avoiding giving asylum to transgender refugees.
Stine Larsen from the asylum campaign group T-Refugee Project explains:
"I see it as a victory in principle, the Refugee Board now believes that gender identity and sexuality can play a role in an asylum case. But we are not there yet. We are cautiously optimistic, but waiting. We still need to see some concrete decisions that are positive for transgender asylum seekers. If the letter from the Refugee Board is to be more than fine words, transgender asylum seekers from countries that do not protect them from violence and killings should of course be granted asylum."
 Real and personal danger
According to the T-Refugee Project this statement of intent is a clear improvement in relation to their overall struggle for rights. In practice, the change means that amongst others, transgender asylum seekers will be recognized as belonging to a particular social group. This enables them to obtain asylum with convention status, if they can convince the Refugee Board that they are in real and personal danger because of their gender identity.
Phoebus Papanikolaou, who, like Stine Larsen is active in the T-Refugee Project, said:
"It is essential that there is action behind the fine words and asylum is granted in individual cases. Refugee Convention status is not secured by the latest announcement by the Refugee Board, even though it represents a step in the right direction, it would indeed be absurd beyond measure if the change only ended up as embellishments on the paper it was written on. That would be tantamount to simply presenting a positive face, which hopefully is far below the Refugee Board’s standards "
Stine Larsen believes that it is positive that the Refugee Board now suggests a change in relation to gender identity and sexuality:
"At last, something has happened. LGBT Denmark has for many years been trying to get the Refugee Board to change its practice, and this change has been one of our main demands since we started the T-Refugee Project in September. Of course, gender identity and sexuality should be taken into account when deciding who may be considered as part of a particular social group, allowing for asylum status to be granted.”
 A victory for Danish activism
The announcement from the Refugee Board, besides being a victory for transgender refugees also represents a victory for activism in Denmark.
"I do not think Refugee Board would have changed its practice, if Søren Laursen, renowned researchers and other groups and individuals had not argued for asylum for transgender and homosexual people who risk persecution in their countries of origin. I think the change is due to the hard work of many types of lead actors have put in the work for actual transgender asylum seekers."
 An international victory
The new tone of the Refugee Board is also a victory for cooperation between activists across national borders. And it is a victory for international human rights bodies and groups like ILGA Europe, UNHCR and Amnesty International.
T-Refugee Project believes that the other European countries that are lagging behind UN recommendations on gender and sexuality (ie the UK and Ireland) should follow Denmark and change course, specifically to include gender identity or sexuality minorities.
 Words must be followed up with action
"Now we hope that this is a signal that the refugees fleeing because of their gender identity or sexual orientation will actually be granted asylum. The T-Refugee Project will keep a close eye on the Refugee Board’s decisions and speak up if the new policy is not respected. If it is just empty words, it will do nothing for the refugees who need it to be followed up with action," concludes Stine Larsen.

Facebook: T-Refugee Project / Save Fernanda Milan
Søren Laursen, retspolitisk talsperson, LGBT: 
Flygtningenævnets response to Søren Laursen:
Demonstration i København ’Asylum for Fernanda Milán’-manifestation
UNHCR: Refugee protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law p. 43
UNHCR: Om de problematiske forhold for LGBT-asylansøgere i modtagerstaterne:
FN’s menneskerettighedskomite: Om LGBT-personers vilkår i oprindelseslandene:

T-Refugee Project demands
Asylum for Fernanda Milán!

Compliance with the Refugee Convention recommendations on gender and sexuality in specific asylum cases!"
English translation from Danish by Natacha Kennedy

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