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LGBTI asylum seekers facing 'double discrimination' across Europe, warns report

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By Euronews
A man is seen underneath the rainbow flag during the the fourth gay pride rally in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on June 18, 2011.
A man is seen underneath the rainbow flag during the the fourth gay pride rally in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on June 18, 2011.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Valentina Petrova

The situation for LGBTI asylum seekers in a number of European countries is fraught with difficulties with many facing double discrimination, a new report has warned.

They face "specific difficulties and injustice" even in countries that rank high for positive LGBT legislative change, according to an annual review by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

ILGA-Europe says LGBTI asylum seekers face double discrimination in Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

In Denmark, activists have documented cases of trans asylum seekers without access to trans-specific healthcare or being harassed, while NGOs in Spain have warned of the underreporting of discrimination and violence that LGBTI asylum seekers endure, and a lack of access to social and healthcare services.

Germany was flagged for "the unsafe practice of conducting investigations of asylum seekers in their home countries and outing them".

Several countries including France, Malta and Greece were decried for adding nations -- thought by some as being unsafe for LGBTI people -- to their list of "safe countries" that asylum seekers could be sent back to if their applications were unsuccessful.

Greece now considers Turkey safe for LGBTI asylum seekers to be sent back to, but ILGA-Europe ranks the country as among the three worst countries in Europe for LGBTI rights and protection.

France's Council of State, which acts as a supreme court for administrative justice, ruled in March that LGBTQI+ asylum seekers coming from a country that criminalises or persecutes LGBTQI+ people, should not be automatically given refugee status.

Malta and Sweden were meanwhile flagged for new policies that make it harder for asylum seekers to find work or settle permanently with the Mediterranean island not allowing asylum seekers from "safe countries" to work for the first nine months after their arrival while the Scandinavian country passed new regulations that make temporary residence permits the default for refugees and make it significantly more difficult for anyone to acquire permanent residence in the country.

'Real people's lives are at stake'

Overall, the report warned that 2021 has seen a rise in official anti-LGBTI rhetoric that has fuelled a wave of hate crime in every country in Europe — and not just in Hungary and Poland which have been rebuked by Brussels over certain legislations or so-called "LGBT-free zones".

ILGA-Europe noted, however, that a"particular low point" came on June 15 when Hungary introduced legislation that bans the "portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality" for persons under 18.

Germany, meanwhile, had a 39% increase in anti-LGBTI hate crime, while in France, a new app where users can report anti-LGBTI hate crimes, collected reports of 3,896 incidents in its first year, ILGA-Europe also said.

"The spread of anti-LGBTI and trans-exclusionary rhetoric outlined in this report has a very real negative impact on people's lives. In country after country, we see how it negatively impacts people's mental health and their sense of safety, their access to employment and the overall ability to progress much needed legal protection," Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe's executive director, said in a statement.

"At this moment in time, it is essential we remind politicians, media, academics -- and sadly even some civil society actors -- that real people's lives are at stake in every country across the region, because of the political scapegoating of LGBTI people," she added.

'Allied determination' against anti-LGBT policies

But on a more positive note, the report also highlights that although the use of anti-LGBTI rhetoric and hate crimes are rising, they are being increasingly challenged by a growing institutional resolve to tackle hatred and exclusion, particularly from the judiciary and European Union institutions.

It welcomed rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on hate crimes, freedom of assembly, LGR and family rights, a resolution from the European Parliament on LGBTIQ rights in the EU as well as the European Commission's decision to open "landmark" infringement procedures against both Hungary and Poland.

“This report narrates an unparalleled year in Europe, with regional and national institutions and courts taking their obligations to the human rights of LGBTI people with utmost gravity amid the now crystal clear escalation of the instrumentalisation of hatred against LGBTI people for political gain and expanded power," Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director at ILGA-Europe, said.

"The advance of using hatred of any minority as an instrument of political gain, which we have seen throughout history, must be addressed and halted with allied determination across the region," she stressed.

Furthermore, it flagged that although officials may increasingly use anti-LGBTI rhetoric, there is a disconnect with public opinion.

A poll from Amnesty International found for instance that nearly three-quarters of Hungarians reject the government’s false claim that gay and lesbian people abuse or harm children while 59% support same-sex marriage.

In Serbia, 60% of people think that trans people should be protected, while over two-thirds of Romanians believe all families, including rainbow families, should be protected.