Tag Archives: British Isles & Western Europe

Citations | LGBTQ+ Asylum-seekers

Asylum Claims and the Adjudication of Sexual Identity

In immigration systems around the world, credibility stands as the primary burden of proof and identity indicator for sexual and gender minorities fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. In determining who assesses credibility and how, however, precision has long eluded researchers, lawmakers, and adjudicators as fluidity and multiplicity in identity has come to define sexual- and gender-minority communities. The reliance on expert assessments and interviewer perceptions in legal and administrative decisions has proven problematic from both a scientific and human rights perspective. Testing often involves a combination of physiological and psychological measurement, from arousal responses to personality assessments, and interviews have been based on a range of cultural biases and unrealistic expectations.

Immigration laws across nations have variously granted or denied asylum based on behavior, identity, affiliation, or perception, and the lack of standardization has created a large degree of uncertainty for LGBT individuals fleeing unsafe conditions in their countries of origin. This Citations installment outlines the patchwork of domestic and international laws and guidelines framing the consideration of asylum claims by sexual and gender minorities in popular destination countries, region- and country-specific legal and administrative processes, and recent trends in the assessment of sexual and gender identity and asylum claims.


The U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention) established guidelines determining the status of an individual as a refugee, defined as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” The “membership of a particular social group” item has become the cornerstone of the expansion of asylum rights to LGBT individuals fleeing persecution, and international organizations have undertaken efforts to outline frameworks for ascertaining such membership.

European Union

In a victory for LGBT asylum-seekers in Europe, the E.U. Court of Justice recently ruled against Hungarian immigration officials’ decision to deny a gay Nigerian’s asylum claim as the result of a sexuality assessment test. In its ruling, the ECJ determined that while such psychological assessments are not prohibited, the results cannot factor into asylum decisions when testing methodology contravenes any of the human rights outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The decision comes as the culmination of a series of rulings related to the assessment of sexual identity in asylum decisions in member states amid historic levels of trans-Mediterranean migration.

United States

Since 1994, the U.S. has recognized sexual identity as grounds for granting asylum in the country. The political and legal recognition of LGBT asylum-seekers has co-evolved with that of LGBT citizens, with asylum decision-making processes having liberalized alongside greater scientific research into sexual orientation and expanding legal rights and protections for LGBT citizens. Today, LGBT asylum-seekers submit an application that includes documentation corroborating both individual circumstances as well as the conditions LGBT individuals face in their country of origin and are then selected to participate in an interview with the Department of Homeland Security. With no government data kept regarding the outcome of claims based on sexual orientation, however, transparency and accountability have emerged as central issues for advocates and watchdogs seeking to promote security and rigor in adjudication.


While Australia has recognized sexual orientation as part of the 1951 Convention’s designation of “membership of a particular social group,” the country has faced significant criticism for its asylum process for LGBT petitioners, which has included low approval rates and offshore detention that has further imperiled asylum-seekers. When asylum-seekers have gone before the Refugee and Migration Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a final attempt to secure asylum, they have faced arbitrary, invasive, stereotypical, and culturally ignorant lines of questioning and expectations by interviewers and offered private photos and texts by asylum-seekers in desperation to “confirm” their sexual identity.


As immigration and refugee acceptance have become political hot topics in Europe, the U.S., and Australia, Canada has sought to position itself as a beacon of acceptance for individuals fleeing to the Global North to escape war or persecution. LGBT individuals petitioning for asylum enjoy higher-than-average approval rates in the country, but advocates have noted that Canada’s adjudication process has historically suffered from the same cultural biases and pitfalls in credibility assessment as other popular destination countries. Tight claim deadlines and multiple points of inquiry introduce further precarity in the process, but advocates are hopeful that a new set of guidelines issued in 2017 will improve the adjudication process. 

South Africa

A popular destination for LGBT Africans seeking refuge outside of their countries of origin, South Africa positioned itself as an early global leader in the establishment of LGBT legal rights and protections. Though the most progressive African nation in this respect, the country has nevertheless been criticized for the legal process through which it puts LGBT asylum-seekers, including reliance on temporary permits to defer long-term status provision and intimidation and credibility issues in the interview process.


France News | Muslim Men

French hospital dismisses Egyptian trainee doctor from program for beard
  • The administrative court of appeals ruled in favor of the hospital after the surgery trainee sued as the result of termination by hospital managers at a Saint-Denis hospital for failing to trim his beard.
  • The trainee’s lawyer argued that the termination was discriminatory as a similarly long beard worn by someone who wasn’t Egyptian and named “Mohamed” would likely not have been asked to prove it was not of religious orientation.
  • French law dictates that religious expression is forbidden in state institutions like public hospitals, including personal symbolic displays that could be construed as religiously motivated.

Un médecin renvoyé pour une barbe trop longue, la justice donne raison à l’hôpital” (Agence France-Presse, via Libération | December 2017 – in French)

‘C’est une décision complètement discriminatoire’ : un médecin stagiaire renvoyé à cause d’une barbe trop longue” (franceinfo | December 2017 – in French)

French hospital rejects trainee doctor due to ‘religious’ beard” (The Telegraph | January 2018)


France News | People of Color

Discussions of systemic racism in France provoke backlash
  • Recent rows in French government and civil society have pitted anti-racism activists against government officials over discussions of the state and other political institutions’ role in propagating racial inequality.
  • Journalist Rokhaya Diallo was removed from France’s national digital council only a week after her appointment following a campaign by right-wing activists and officials that targeted her for, among other things, her discussions of “institutional racism.”
  • The same use of the term by the teachers union SUD-Education 93 led Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer to indicate he will pursue complaints against the organization as well as for having hosted workshops reserved for people of color.

French race row erupts as feminist forced off advisory body” (The Guardian | December 2017)

Blanquer porte plainte contre un syndicat qui a utilisé l’expression «racisme d’Etat»” (Le Monde | November 2017, in French)

Les ateliers « en non-mixité raciale » du syndicat SUD-Education 93 créent une polémique” (Le Monde | November 2017, in French)


When will France admit that police racism is systemic?” (The Guardian | March 2017)


U.K. News | Underrepresented Communities

U.K. elects most diverse parliament in history
  • 51 MPs of color (black and minority ethnic, or BME) were elected to the House of Commons, an increase of some 25% from the 41 elected in the previous election cycle.
  • 208 women were elected, an electoral record though still only 32% of Parliament, and more than 40 LGBT MPs now form the largest cohort of openly queer politicians in the history of the House of Commons.
  • The new parliament also features the first Palestinian, first female Sikh, four black female, first turban-wearing Sikh, and four openly disabled MPs.

Election results: Record number of black, Asian and ethnic minority MPs elected to parliament” (The Independent | June 2017)

The New Parliament Has More Black, Asian, And Women MPs Than Ever Before” (BuzzFeed News | June 2017)

Election 2017: Record number of female MPs” (BBC News | June 2017)

(Image Credit: Facebook, via The Independent)

Ireland News | Gay Asian-Irish

Irish governing party elects first out gay, Indian-descendent PM
  • The Fine Gael voted Leo Varadkar its new leader, a gay, half-Indian man set to become the youngest PM in Irish history.
  • Varadkhar, 38, was born to an Indian immigrant father and an Irish mother and has become a polarizing conservative firebrand in Irish politics since his first election in 2007.
  • The election has been lauded as a monumental moment for the predominantly Catholic country that in 2015 became the first in the world to codify marriage equality into law through referendum.

Varadkar becomes Irish PM-in-waiting in social, generational shift” (Reuters | June 2017)

Leo Varadkar wins: Ireland set to install first openly gay Prime Minister” (The Independent | June 2017)

From Enda (66) to Leo (38): Ireland set to replace oldest EU leader with youngest” (The Irish Times | June 2017)

(Image Credit: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

France News | Black Women

Paris mayor backtracks after threatening to ban Afro-feminist festival
  • Mayor Anne Hidalgo originally threatened to prohibit the Nyansapo Festival, alert police, and sue for discrimination, repeating far-right accusations that the event was “prohibited to white people” despite no such language appearing in the organizers’ materials.
  • Festival organizers, part of the Mwasi Collective, planned to reserve certain events for black women, others for black people of all genders, others for women of color in general, and others still for the general populace in an attempt to provide open discussion spaces free of judgment for minority participants.
  • The mayor eventually backtracked, although she and right-wing activists claimed victory for having “established a solution” as a rest of Hidalgo’s “firm intervention.”

Paris mayor vows to halt black feminist festival, then backtracks” (France 24 | May 2017)

Aux origines de la polémique sur le festival afroféministe Nyansapo” (Libérationin French | May 2017)

Comme au Nyansapo Fest, pourquoi certaines associations prônent la non-mixité” (Huffington Postin French | May 2017)


Festival Nyansapo

(Image Credit: via Libération)

U.K. News | Muslims & Ethnic Minorities

Reported hate crimes double in Manchester in aftermath of bombing
  • Some 56 hate crimes were reported in the two days following the bombing in Manchester by a Briton of Libyan descent, a twofold increase over the 28 in the two previous days (the average amount, according to law enforcement).
  • Incidents included bomb threats, intimidation, slurs, and racist graffiti across the city.
  • Community members noted a significant number of incidents had gone unreported and expressed frustration at the expectation of apologizing on behalf of all Muslims while being subjected to anti-Muslim abuse.

Manchester attack: Hate crime ‘doubles’ after incident” (BBC News | May 2017)

Muslim leaders in Manchester report rise in Islamophobic incidents” (The Guardian | May 2017)

Manchester sees rise in hate crimes after attack” (Al Jazeera | May 2017)

(Image Credit: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters, via The Guardian)