Cyprus Mail

LGBT asylum seekers cannot be tested to prove themselves

By George Psyllides

LGBT asylum seekers should not be tested or evaluated by applying stereotypical perceptions, the authority against discrimination said, as part of guidelines for authorities to follow when assessing the credibility of applicants claiming persecution due to sexual orientation.

The guidelines were set by the European Union Court in response to a question submitted by Raad van State, or Council of State, an advisory body to the government of the Netherlands.

Head of the authority Eliza Savvidou, also the island’s ombudswoman, said she judged proper to issue the guidelines because Cyprus has seen cases of people seeking asylum citing their sexual orientation, though her office has not received any complaints of this nature.

Savvidou said there weren’t many cases but authorities appeared wary on how to handle them.

“There is ignorance on the best way to handle the case,” she told the Cyprus Mail.

The EU court set five principles, which govern the evaluation process of the applicant’s credibility.

Evaluation must be personalised and take into consideration the circumstances of each case, including general background, gender, and age, to determine whether the acts they could be exposed to constitute persecution or serious harm, the court said.

The assessment cannot be exclusively based on stereotypical perceptions about homosexuals, and questions put to them during the interview should not concern the details of their sexual practices.

Making the applicants perform acts or undergo ‘tests’ to prove their sexual orientation, or to supply evidence – even voluntarily — like a video with sexual encounters, could constitute an insult to human dignity, the court said.

Beyond that, and their dubious value, accepting such evidence would “force other applicants to resort to the use of such material and practices.”

The court also said that considering the sensitive nature of the information regarding a person’s sexuality, an applicant cannot be deemed unreliable just because they did not disclose their orientation from the onset because of hesitation to reveal their personal life.

“The court was very clear in its decision that evaluation methods must not violate the right to private life and human dignity,” Savvidou said. “At the same time, recognising that homosexuality is taboo in many societies, the EU Court clarified that the applicants’ initial hesitation to state their sexual orientation cannot, by itself, lead to a negative decision about their credibility.”

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