Asylum for the LGBT and activists

If you fear persecution or risk of inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in your country of origin because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you may be granted asylum or protection in Finland. You cannot apply asylum while being abroad, but you have to arrive in Finland, where you can leave your asylum application at a border control or at a police station after entering the country.

According to the Finnish Aliens Act (section 87), aliens residing in the country are granted asylum if they reside outside their home country or country of permanent residence owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of ethnic origin, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion and if they, because of this fear, are unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country. It is explicated in the act that sexual orientation may be a common characteristic of a social group (section 87 b). LGBTI-people can also be persecuted for political or religious reasons (see UNHCR).

Guidelines on International Protection No. 9: Claims to Refugee Status based on Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity [pdf]

According to the Aliens Act (section 87 a), persecution means

– acts of physical or mental violence, including acts of sexual violence;
– legal or administrative measures or police or judicial measures which are in themselves discriminatory or which are implemented in a discriminatory manner;
– prosecution or punishment which is disproportionate or discriminatory;
– absence or denial of judicial redress resulting in a disproportionate or discriminatory punishment;
– acts of gender-specific or child-specific nature.

If the conditions for getting asylum are not fullfilled, but a person would face a real risk of being subjected to serious harm, when returned to his or her country of origin or former habitual residence, she or he can get subsidiary protection (section 88).

Serious harm means:

  • the death penalty or execution;
  • torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • serious and individual threat as a result of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflicts.

An English translation of the Aliens Act:

http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/kaannokset/2004/en20040301.pdf

Official information about asylum seeking and decision making can be found in the pages of Finnish Migration Service, the authority responsible for asylum process and decisions:

http://www.migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/applying_for_asylum

As an asylum seeker you can get legal aid for free, if you cannot afford legal services otherwise. We recommend the services of the Refugee Advice Centre, which is a non-governmental organisation specialised in asylum law. The Refugee Advice Centre gives basic information on the asylum procedure to asylum seekers, assist the asylum seekers before the first instance decision and make appeals to courts.  See:

http://www.pakolaisneuvonta.fi/index_html?lid=53&lang=eng

If the reason for your flight is fear of persecution because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, do not hesitate to tell about it in the very first phase of asylum process, when being heard by the police. You can also reveal it at a later phase of the process, but that may be regarded as weakening the credibility of your application.

Refugee centres

When arriving to Finland, asylum seekers are accommodated in refugee centres while their application is being processed. However, if you have a possibility to live in a private accommodation, you can stay there at your own expense.

Living in a refugee center can be challenging for anyone, but especially for LGBTIQ asylum seekers. LGBTIQ people may fear or face discrimination by their fellow asylum seekers in asylum centres. If the staff are not able to safeguard your stay in the refugee centre, you can request transfer to safer accommodation.

As an LGBTI person, you can expect confidentiality, respect and correct treatment by the police, immigration officers, interpreters and staff of refugee center. Discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristic, is prohibited by the Equality Act.

If you encounter harassment or homophobic / transphobic actions at a refugee centre, tell about it to the staff. It this their responsibility to take action against harassment and violent acts. You should also report these actions to the police.

If you are together with your partner you should be regarded as a family. There are specific family rooms in refugee centres and you can ask for such room.

 

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