An Afghan teenager has had his asylum application rejected by an Austrian official who said he did not “walk, act, or dress” like a gay man.
The 18-year-old is fleeing Afghanistan fearing persecution for his sexuality, Agence France-Presse reported.
“The way you walk, act or dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual,” the official is reported to have told the man.
The official also pointed to the man’s tendency to spend time by himself or in small groups as reason not to approve his application, saying, “Aren’t homosexuals rather social?”
Their report also stated the man had “potential for aggression” which was not “expected from a homosexual” after altercations with others in his housing.
The official wrote that the man couldn’t have kissed straight men as he claimed because he would’ve been assaulted for doing so.
The official allegedly wrote he man’s statement that he realised he was gay at 12 years old was “rather early” because “there is no public sexual stimulation through fashion and advertisement” in Afghanistan.
Austria’s Interior Ministry told the Washington Post 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 publication.
“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.”
The spokesperson said the ministry was working with the UN refugee agency to offer further training on LGBTIQ issues to “ensure quality” in the asylum evaluation process.
The 18-year-old has appealed against the decision and remains in Austria. Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan.
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 Cridland/Flickr)