On July 13, 2017 DW reported: Once in Germany, gay and lesbian refugees continue to experience verbal attacks and homophobia. They also encounter difficulties during the asylum process, as Knud Wechterstein from Rainbow Refugees Frankfurt explains.
Rainbow Refugees Frankfurt is an initiative that assists LGBT refugees (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). On the one hand, it offers help in different steps of the asylum proceedings. On the other, Rainbow Refugees also organizes open sessions where people can come together, find contacts and build up networks. It was started in 2015. Since then, the initiative that relies solely on donations was able to help out about 200 people. Board member Knud Wechterstein explains what problems LGBT refugees in Germany are facing.
DW: Germany recently legalized gay marriage. What do homosexual refugees have to gain from this?
Knud Wechterstein: One one hand, gays, and lesbians can now marry and it will now be recognized by the government. This is an important step towards equality. But at the same time, Germany does not manage to grant asylum to gay and transsexual refugees who fled because they were persecuted. We have to work on that.
What challenges do LGBT refugees face?
People of gay and queer orientation who flee to Germany usually enter into equally homophobic surroundings. It’s a continuation. There is verbal abuse, violence and marginalization by other refugees, especially in the shelters. The asylum proceedings also present a big challenge: we are seeing that gay refugees are not being heard through and that their reasons for fleeing receive little attention. Asylum applications by homosexual refugees get rejected even if there is severe persecution of homosexual activity in their home countries. This is despite the fact that in Germany, there is a right to asylum for this kind of persecution.
How do the refugees themselves deal with their sexuality?
Some refugees come with a clear intention: to live out their sexuality openly. We find that their asylum proceedings tend to be positive. But there are many other refugees who still have to accept their sexual orientation for themselves. They might arrive in Germany still following their religion that does not allow them homosexual activity. Those have a much harder time during the asylum process. During the asylum hearings, mistakes happen frequently.
What exactly goes wrong during the asylum process?
They are not used to talking about their sexuality. During the asylum hearings, they have to explain everything within a short amount of time. That often doesn’t work. In addition, the interpreters oftentimes come from a similar cultural background where homosexuality is rejected. The refugees sense this and are too hesitant to talk freely. They cannot voice the reasons for fleeing.
But there are also incorrect decisions made by the BAMF. For example, the BAMF frequently says that gay refugees can find safety in other areas of their home country, for example in Pakistan. We do not agree with that.
We assume that during asylum proceedings, too much attention is on the numbers. A certain amount of decisions has to be made in a day. The personal stories of suffering are secondary in this context.
Another problem is a lack in communication: there are actually decision makers who have been trained in LGTB issues. Asylum seekers can apply to have the hearing with them. This fact, however, is not known because the BAMF does not communicate it.
We try to call attention to incorrect asylum decisions; we are in contact with politicians and send the protocols of the asylum interviews to lay out the reasons for unfounded rejections.