Every year, thousands of people escape their countries of origin because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). They seek a safer place elsewhere, and many become asylum claimants, hoping that their status as a refugee will eventually be recognised by the government of the host country. This is more often than not a tortuous journey and protection is many times unfairly denied.
Through individual and group interviews, observation of court hearings, online surveys and Freedom of Information requests, a group of researchers at the University of Sussex collected the views of almost 500 people on SOGI asylum, including asylum claimants and refugees, NGOs, policy-makers, decision-makers, judges, lawyers, and other professionals in Germany, Italy, the UK and at European Union and Council of Europe levels. On the basis of this data, the SOGICA project generated a solid theoretically and empirically-grounded comparative and comprehensive picture of the status and legal experiences of SOGI refugees, and determined how the European asylum systems can treat more fairly asylum claims based on the claimant’s SOGI.
Our findings indicate that SOGI asylum claims are still often treated unfairly across Europe. There are still serious issues regarding decision-making based on stereotypes, refusals and returns based on the expectation of concealment, intrusive and demeaning lines of questioning, and low quality standards of interpretation. Reception conditions for these asylum claimants still do not sufficiently address their needs, with instances of discrimination and violence often occurring. SOGI refugees and asylum claimants also struggle considerably in accessing health services, the labour market and educational provision, having to manage too many (often insurmountable) hurdles. All in all, it is a very worrying scenario that requires urgent action by policy-makers and state authorities.
For more information about the SOGICA project, including our publications and recommendations, please visit www.sogica.org.
Design credit: Paula Sarmiento.
All videos directed and produced by Jayne Rowlands and Flavio Ferrari, Digital and Creative Media team, University of Sussex.
SOGICA has been a research project funded by the European Research Council and based at the University of Sussex, exploring the social and legal experiences of individuals across Europe claiming international protection on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to determine how to treat them more fairly.