Where are the LGBT individuals fleeing from, and what is their destination? On what grounds can LGBT refugees obtain asylum? Why are many of them afraid to apply for refugee status? What is the situation of LGBT refugees in Russia?
The answers to these questions are in the article prepared by the Civic Assistance Committee.
WHO IS CONSIDERED A REFUGEE?
As stated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, which Russia joined in 1992, a refugee is an individual who is located outside of their country of origin and has a well-founded fear of being persecuted on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political views, or affiliation with a particular social group.
In Russia, the Institution of Asylum is also regulated by the Federal Law of 1993 “On Refugees” and various other regulations.
ON WHAT GROUNDS CAN LGBT REFUGEES OBTAIN ASYLUM?
According to the established practice of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals (LGBT) have the right to claim refugee status as “members of a particular social group”.
Harassment and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity can be faced by anyone who does not fit in the traditional norms and stereotypes of physical appearance and gender behavior, and therefore, are perceived by others as LGBT members.
In 2013, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that sexual orientation is the basis for obtaining asylum.
Many countries, including Russia, do not view the persecution of sexual minorities and transgender individuals as the ground for providing asylum.
WHERE DO THE LGBT INDIVIDUALS FLEE FROM, AND WHAT IS THEIR DESTINATION?
The official data regarding the LGBT refugees are rarely recorded and oftentimes do not represent the realities of the situation because the members of the LGBT community frequently seek asylum on different grounds other than sexuality or gender identity.
LGBT refugees from countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Iran and Palestine commonly apply for protection in Russia.
Members of the Russian LGBT community usually seek asylum in Germany, France, Spain, and countries of Northern Europe.
WHY DO MANY LGBT MEMBERS FEAR SEEKING ASYLUM?
The asylum procedure involves an interview during which the LGBT refugee has to answer very personal questions about their sexual orientation and gender identity. The process itself is often humiliating.
In the case of Russian immigration services, there are frequent cases of insults, bullying, threats of arrest, and deportation.
Such treatment is characteristic not only of Russian officials. Recently, in 2014, the EU Court banned “homosexuality tests” when applying for asylum for sexual minorities.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION OF LGBT REFUGEES IN RUSSIA?
At the moment, we are not aware of any cases of the Russian immigration system granting refugee status (indefinite) or temporary asylum (issued for a period of up to 1 year with the right to renew) to individuals belonging to the LGBT community.
The refusal appellation process can take years, and the applicants are not able to receive any official status or work permit.
Many choose to stay in Russia as labor migrants or students and prefer to live in the shadows since the disclosure of their identity leads to a new round of persecution from which they once fled.
WHY DO LGBT REFUGEES SEEK ASYLUM?
Article 120 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan ensures imprisonment for up to 3 years for “sodomy”. This article addresses not only gays but also transgender people. They often practice “demonstrative” punishments in the form of violent reprisals by the family and the community, which sometimes end in murder.
Transgender people in Azerbaijan cannot change their name and identity documents, which entails constant discrimination and persecution by the state, family, employers, and the public.
In Cameroon, homosexual relations are punishable by imprisonment from 6 months up to 5 years.
In countries like Sudan and Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Translated by Dzheveira Karimova