UNHCR says there has never been a greater need to improve protection of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees
United Nations publishes summary paper following major global conference on protection and solutions for LGBTIQ+ people in forced displacement
24 August 2021
Following a major United Nations (UN) conference held in June on protection and solutions for LGBTIQ+ people in forced displacement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last week published a 53-page summary of the conclusions reached at the event, which can be downloaded here.
It should be read in conjunction with a 42-page discussion paper here from June.
The global roundtable from 7-29 June convened a total of over 600 people from around the world for an online conference. It was organised by the UNHCR and the UN Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Last week's summary report broadly reflects the collective understandings that emerged from the discussion.
UNHCR says the conclusions outlined in the report may be understood as constituting a foundational roadmap for further action on the part of different stakeholders with regard to the protection of and solutions for LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced and stateless persons throughout the world.
The report provides useful reading for anyone with an interest in asylum claims relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
It explains: "Severe persecution and discrimination from both State and non-State actors continue to force lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) persons – including children, adolescents and older persons, persons with disabilities – to leave their places of habitual residence in search of a safe environment in which they can fully exercise their rights. Many are forced to cross an internationally recognized national border seeking a safer environment. They may also be stateless - not considered as a national of any State under the operation of its laws."
On the problems LGBTIQ+ persons may face when seeking asylum, the summary report notes: "LGBTIQ+ persons seeking international protection in forced displacement experience a myriad of barriers to the adjudication of their asylum claims. A lack of systematic and comprehensive data on SOGIESC-based protection claims makes it difficult to assess overall refugee recognition rates by country or region. According to stakeholders, practices vary, and some jurisdictions are more restrictive than others. It is reported that some caseworkers, lawyers and asylum adjudicators lack a sufficiently nuanced understanding of what sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics entail. Notable challenges in the legal protection of LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers include evidentiary burdens in asylum claims; challenges in satisfying criteria for well-founded fear and/or membership of a particular social group; jurisprudential and credibility challenges; and, implicit biases and/or stereotypes held by caseworkers, lawyers and asylum adjudicators."
The report recommends that countries should ensure that LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers have access to high-quality and free-of-charge legal advice and representation by lawyers with SOGIESC-specific expertise and sensitivity.
It also recommends that decision-makers should eliminate the culture of disbelief and avoid inappropriate lines of questioning and use of stereotypical assumptions in interviewing techniques and credibility assessment.
"There is unprecedented momentum to improve protection of LGBTIQ+ people forced to flee violence and persecution. There has never been a greater need," Gillian Triggs, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said.