An Iraqi man has had his application for asylum rejected because authorities in Austria claimed he was “too girlish” to believably be gay.
Austrian media quoted officials in the country’s Styria region as saying the 27-year-old asylum seeker was acting “like a girl” and his sexuality was therefore “not believable,” BBC News reported.
The officials said the asylum seeker’s “stereotypical, in any case excessive ‘girlish’ behaviour (expressions, gestures)” seemed to be “not authentic”, according to Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
A spokesperson for Austria’s asylum office said the decision had been reviewed, and rejected the accusation it contained any “clichéd phrasing” by officials.
Last week it was reported that Austrian officials had denied an 18-year-old Afghan man asylum fleeing persecution because he did not “walk, act, or dress” gay enough.
Human rights group Amnesty International said last week that it saw a “structural problem” in how Austria assessed asylum claims.
“We demand from the responsible ministry, the Ministry of the Interior, a better quality control for asylum procedures in a timely manner,” Amnesty’s Martina Powell said.
“This includes that issued decisions must be evaluated regularly and, if necessary, revoked by the authority itself.
“Civil servants and translators must receive ongoing training in dealing with people in particular need of protection. A multi-eye principle must be strictly adhered to in order to minimize the risk of wrong decisions.”
Responding to the Afghan man’s case at the time, Austria’s Interior Ministry said that it could not comment on specific cases.
“The federal authority for asylum has made 120,000 decisions over the last two years … with a volume of 5 million pages,” a spokesperson told the Washington Post.
“Using a few sentences out of this enormous amount does not reflect reality.
“Especially in regards to the trustworthiness [of an applicant’s claims], the personal impression during an interview is of significance.
“Asylum seekers must substantiate their reasons for fleeing. There are no concrete rules of proof, but the authorities must show if and why a claim was found to have been substantiated.”
Australia’s Migration Act currently allows consideration of sexuality in determining the risk of persecution in an asylum seeker’s home country, but asylum seekers must produce evidence for their individual cases.
Earlier this year, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said a push to make seeking asylum easier for LGBTIQ refugees could lead to “large numbers of unmeritous applications” by refugees pretending to be gay.
Fairfax Media reported last December on the lack of guidelines for authorities for dealing with LGBTIQ applicants, and the difficulties refugees can face in “proving” their sexuality.
Poor English, limited finances and ongoing struggles with their sexuality can mean LGBTIQ refugees have little involvement with gay organisations or nightlife in Australia, but face rejection by the tribunal without that kind of evidence.
Some applicants even resort to offering videos or images of themselves having sex to support their cases.
A former Tribunal member who spoke to Fairfax anonymously said the use of gay stereotypes in asylum applications was dangerous because of a lack of safeguards to protect people from bad decisions, except an appeal to the Federal Court.
(Photo by James Crickland/Flickr)