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LGBT asylum claims must be handled by trained staff

April 6, 2011 6:35 PM

The European Parliament has made amendments to a proposed new EU law (but one which the UK is not taking part in) on handling claims for asylum.

LibDem European justice & home affairs spokeswoman and MEP for London Sarah Ludford said: "MEPs have rightly backed a reform of EU asylum law so that officials handling refugee applications would need to be trained in awareness of LGBT issues and instructed to seek expert advice when necessary. This should greatly improve the sensitivity and care with which people seeking recognition as refugees fleeing persecution on grounds of sexual orientation are treated."

"Almost 100 countries worldwide criminalise homosexuality and some even punish it with the death penalty. People subject to gross discimination, harassment or physical threat could have good reason to flee their home countries, but may be very wary of talking about their sexuality with strangers. Claims can only be dealt with fairly by fully trained staff."

MEPs' changes, if approved, will mean that caseworkers are trained and made aware of the sensitivities surrounding LGBT issues and in particular in the asylum-seeker's home country, in the same way that the European Commission proposed they should be trained to deal with vulnerable groups of asylum seekers such as children and the elderly, or people with disabilities or mental health problems. There will have to be negotiations to persuade EU governments to accept these changes.

The UK can choose whether to opt in to EU justice and home affairs legislation and it is not taking part in this law on asylum decision-making procedures.