A month ago, ORAM – Organisation for Refuge, Asylum & Migration – was proud to become a member of ECRE. As the only ECRE member dedicated exclusively to advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) refugees, ORAM works with partners across Europe to inform policymakers on effective handling of LGBTI refugee claims, promotion of sensible LGBTI asylum policy, and furthering more effective training on LGBTI asylum adjudication.
“Europe is a critical safe haven for asylum seekers of all kinds, including those who are LGBTI,” pointed out ORAM Executive Director, Neil Grungras.The compassion and respect with which LGBTI refugees are treated once they enter the global protection system varies widely. In the European Union, however, this is about to change.
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled yesterday, 7 November 2013, that ‘voluntary discretion’ is not an acceptable rationale for denying an asylum claim based on sexual orientation. From now on, asylum seekers in the European Union cannot legally be turned away with the vague instruction to go home and avoid persecution by ‘concealing their orientation’, or to go home and ‘exercise restraint’ in expressing their sexual orientation. The Court affirmed that “…a person’s sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it.”
Asylum officials do not need to struggle for an appropriate response to this 2013 ruling, nor to the expected 2014 European Union Court of Justice ruling on credibility assessment in sexual orientation-based claims. Organisations including ORAM have been working for years to build the foundation for adjudication of asylum and refugee applications based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a way that is fair, well-reasoned, and grounded in empirical understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity. We are determined to help adjudication of LGBTI asylum cases in Europe become the most sophisticated and accurate in the world.