ATHENS – Daar* was scared to tell anyone he was gay, let alone the foreign officials who held his future in their hands.
So when the 28-year-old Syrian from Damascus had his first interview for European asylum on the Aegean island of Lesvos, he kept mum, even though revealing his identity would have helped him start a new life away from the island’s squalid camps.
“I was afraid,” he told IRIN. “I didn’t know how to say that [I am gay], and didn’t want to talk about that with the official interpreter who was present during the interview. He is from the Arab community and I didn’t know how he would react.”
In his second interview, Daar decided to tell the asylum office he was gay, helping him gain asylum in a European country and leave the island.
What Daar may not have known at first is that under EU law, people who have been persecuted or face persecution in their home countries due to their sexual orientation and gender identity qualify for refugee status and potentially asylum.
But a weeks-long IRIN investigation has found that EU governments are often failing to even identify gay, bisexual, and transgender asylum seekers, much less afford them special protections that, as a vulnerable group, many desperately need.
Only a handful of EU member states have specific guidelines for interviewing LGBTQI individuals. A UNHCR survey revealed that only one in five asylum offices have formal or informal procedures dedicated to handling these issues.
A number of grassroots groups and NGOs in Greece and across Europe are trying to find ways to help, not just by encouraging people to come out during the asylum interview, but also by demanding that interviewers ask the right questions and address the situation appropriately. Read more via News Deeply