The European Parliament voted on new EU-wide procedures for handling asylum claims on 6 April 2011. During the session, members backed amendments that will provide particular protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
Asylum claimants seeking to escape homophobic or transphobic persecution will now be included in the definition of asylum seekers with ’special needs’. New measures include the provision of expert advice on LGBT issues for asylum officials, privacy protections, and ensuring that LGBT asylum seekers are not ‘fast-tracked’ for removal.
"The European Parliament is showing that asylum rules need updating to reflect reality: 76 countries criminalise homosexual acts, and 7 foresee the death penalty – maybe 8 soon, with Uganda,” said Rui Tavares MEP, vice-president of the Parliament’s LGBT intergroup. "I regret that other progressive provisions did not pass, but today’s text will ultimately bring more fairness for LGBT asylum seekers.”
EU politicans from across the political spectrum united behind the amendments. "I am particularly proud that my centre-right colleagues agreed on the need for special protection, regardless of their general position on asylum,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, a member of the centre-right European People’s Party. "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection taking into account cultural sensitivity.”
The vote establishes the formal position of the European Parliament. The actual new asylum rules must be agreed upon between the Parliament and EU governments.
Some governments are likely to object to the LGBT amendments. The measure to end ‘fast-tracking’ may face particular resistance. The UK government does not currently include LGBT asylum seekers in its list of groups who cannot be fast-tracked through the system.