Fact Check: Higher Approvals for LGBTQ+ Asylum Activists? On 21 December 2022 Beryl Ohas published an article in GCN News claiming LGBTQ+ activists have it easier in the international protection process. Is it true? Before I get to the answer, I want to say that I empathise with Ohas and at no time discount her experiences as an LGBTQ+ person navigating the asylum process.
Fact Check: Higher Approvals for LGBTQ+ Asylum Activists? No, LGBTQ+ Asylum Activists Are Not Approved at a Higher Rate
Ohas claims in The truth about being granted refugee status as an LGBTQ+ person in Ireland, that International Protection “protocols only favour activists, or educated and successful LGBTQ+ refugees.”
First, asylum protocols do not favour activists or educated and successful LGBTQ+ refugees in Ireland. In fact, protocols are more likely to disfavour them on the grounds that it is believed that “the more knowledgeable” the asylum seeker, the easier it is for them to create an asylum-friendly scenario, which the International Protection Office may believe to be superficially compatible with the conditions known to exist in the country of origin. To illustrate this point one only need to refer to the case of Bulelani Mfaco, a well-known activist in Ireland, who has been vocal about homophobia and attacks in South Africa, but still had his asylum application rejected in 2019. Danni Askini, an American trans activist who sought asylum in Sweden also had her claim rejected. This clearly demonstrates LGBTQ+ activists are not approved at a higher rate.
While I concede, one could be a climate change activist but know little about climate change, activists usually advocate for—or against—an issue because they know much about it, or have lived experience with that issue. What Ohas seems to omit from her article is that there have been cases of heterosexual asylum seekers using the LGBTQ+ ground to get asylum. Indeed, evidence demonstrated that hundreds of asylum seekers lied about sexual orientation just to be granted asylum in the Netherlands.
Another truth omitted from Ohas’ article is that LGBTQ+ persons who come from ‘safe countries’ are regularly denied Refugee Status despite meeting the definition. This practice is at odds with the European Parliament’s resolution, who pointed out that LGBTQ+ people can be subjected to abuse in countries held to be ‘safe’ for asylum determination and may have entirely legitimate claims.
LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers in Ireland From Islam Can Fully Be Themselves
While I agree with Ohas, less popular, antisocial and introverted LGBTQ+ individuals regularly experience discrimination, the claim that LGBTQ+ Muslims cannot be themselves in Ireland is misleading. This argument forces Ireland to shoulder the burden, when in fact the burden belongs on the shoulders of the Islamic community. First, ‘Muslim’ is not a country or continent. Muslims are people who adhere to the Islamic religion. Second, I haven’t found a law on the books in Ireland that requires LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to be part of the Islamic community. Indeed, the ECtHR explicitly held that Sharīaʿ law is not compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. The explicit ruling of the ECtHR and the fact that Muslims are people who adhere to the Islamic religion leads one to believe that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who identify as Muslim are likely adhering to Islam.
Most LGBTQ+ persons who are persecuted in Islam would not purposely re-associate themselves with the religion in Ireland because they understand that a hard line may be drawn between sexuality and spirituality. Indeed, a gay Muslim who attended a mosque in Ireland found out the hard way when a Sheikh forbade his lifestyle. The admonishment to his gay lifestyle also resulted in the man abandoning the Irish Muslim Council when he found himself without anywhere to pray for fear of judgement. He also told the Irish Mirror he’s now questioning whether he’s welcome among Muslims at all. As can be seen, it is not Ireland that is preventing LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from fully being themselves.
No, LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers Do Not Have to Celebrate Pride
Pride celebration is not required in order to receive a Refugee Declaration. Article 10 of the Irish Constitution states everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This means that public authorities in Ireland cannot require LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to celebrate Pride. Several high profile LGBTQ individuals in western countries, such as Blair White and Lewis Oakley, do not necessarily celebrate Pride month. In addition to these voices, Ally Hills uploaded a video in 2021 Reacting to Gays Who Hate Pride. If LGBTQ+ citizens do not have to celebrate Pride, then it follows that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers do not have to celebrate it just to get a Refugee Status Declaration.
Intrusive Questioning of LGB Asylum Seekers Have Changed
While there have been cases where gay asylum seekers have been asked intrusive questions in visa interviews, most International Protection officers generally avoid intrusive questions. Intrusive tests, the submission of intimate evidence, and questioning about sexual practices are explicitly prohibited as they infringe on a person’s rights under the EU Charter. We know this if we look at C-473/16 F v. Bevándorlási és Állampolgársági Hivatal, where the CJEU clarified which evidence is permitted in assessing asylum claims based on sexual orientation. The CJEU’s judgment in A.B.C. v. Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie also delineates what cannot be asked, as well as what the decision maker is not able to receive as evidence in sexual orientation cases. As noted above, both cases demonstrate the changes being made in the International Protection process as it relates to intrusive questions.
No, There is No ‘Imaging’ of LGBTQ+ Persons in Western Countries
Ohas argues that “the use of stereotypical western imaging of LGBTQ+ sex, expressions of identity through rainbow-coded fashion styles is the framework within which ‘truth’ is legitimised and validated.” However, this could not be further from the truth. The rainbow flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender. In other words, there are many shades of gray as it relates to human sexuality and gender. If there are many shades of gray in western society when it comes to gender and sexuality, then we cannot possibly accept the argument that there is a western imaging conspiracy being used to deny LGBTQ+ applicants.
It is Widely Understood that Asylum Seekers Miss Their Families
It is widely understood that asylum seekers miss their families. Candi McDow states “When you miss someone it means you really care about the person and you value them.” You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t miss your loved ones or certain aspects of your nation. For example, I miss Cream of Wheat and cannot find it anywhere in Ireland. I don’t think anyone would say, “Oh, you miss Cream of Wheat? Then you must not be persecuted!” Or, “You miss your family? People who miss their family are not persecuted!” People understand persecution in different ways. I think the best way to educate someone on persecution, without revealing intimate details about oneself, is to talk about it.
Where Ohas Gets it Right: Direct Provision
In the midst of misinformation Ohas does get it right on direct provision. Some asylum seekers in Ireland do have to share room with homophobic people, which promotes bullying and discrimination. While I disagree with Ohas that heterosexual refugees are highly homophobic and transphobic, there is an argument to be made that the myopic mindset could be the result of religious dogma, which emboldens an individual’s unwillingness to integrate to create a safe space for everyone.
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