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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Glossary: Allies: People who work together for equality, especially if you’re not a member of the group facing inequality.

Heterosexism: Assuming everyone is straight or that heterosexuality is superior to other sexual orientations.

Asylum: The grant, by a State, of protection on its territory to persons from another State who are fleeing persecution or serious danger. Asylum encompasses a variety of elements including permission to remain on the territory of the asylum country, and humane standards of treatment.

Homophobia: Prejudice or discrimination towards LGBT people - often used to include biphobia (discrimination against bisexual people) & transphobia (discrimination against transgender people).

Asylum-Seeker: An asylum-seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection. In countries with individualized procedures, an asylum-seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which he or she has submitted it. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylumseeker. Bisexual: Someone who is attracted to women and men. Coming out: Understanding yourself, and telling other people that you are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and /or Transgender.

Homophobic bullying: Bullying based on prejudice or discrimination towards LGBT people. International Protection: The actions by the international community on the basis of international law, aimed at protecting the fundamental rights of a specific category of persons outside their countries of origin, who lack the national protection of their own countries. INIS - Repatriation Unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service: The office responsible for, among other things, making decisions on applications for subsidiary protection and leave to remain. Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women.

Direct Provision: Government accommodation for asylumseekers. This is full board with a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child (2012 allowances). Dispersal: The policy of relocating newly arrived asylum-seekers to different locations around Ireland after a period in the reception centre. Dublin II Regulation: Is a European Union (EU) law that determines the EU Member State responsible to examine an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive, within the European Union. Gay: Someone who is attracted to people of the same gender. Gay usually refers to males as many women call themselves lesbian. Gender identity: An individual’s internal understanding of themselves as female, male, and/or transgender. Gender expression: How people show their gender, through their dress, hair, voice, mannerisms, etc. Heterosexual / Straight: Someone who is attracted to people of another gender.

LGBT: The term often used in Ireland for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Glossary: Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC): The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner is responsible for processing asylum applications in Ireland. It conducts interviews with applicants to determine their asylum claims. Its decisions may be appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsidiary Protection: A person who does not qualify as a refugee but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown that the person, if returned to his or her country of origin, or country of former residence, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm.

Pride: The annual celebration of LGBT communities held around the world. In Ireland, most Pride events are in the summer, and often include a parade with people dressed up in colourful costumes and lots of Rainbow flags.

Transgender or Trans: Someone whose gender identity differs from the one they were given at birth. They may identify as male or female, or maybe neither label fits them. Some who have changed their gender call themselves transsexual.

Rainbow: The rainbow has represented LGBT people since 1978. It symbolises diversity and inclusion within LGBT communities and LGBT Pride. The LGBT Rainbow flag includes 6 colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT): The Refugee Appeals Tribunal decides appeals of asylum seekers whose applications for refugee status have not been approved by the ORAC. Reception Centre: A location with facilities for receiving, processing and attending to the immediate needs of refugees or asylum-seekers as they arrive in a country of asylum (for example in Ireland - Balseskin). Reception and Integration Agency: Oversees the accommodation of asylum-seekers in Ireland under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. Refugee: A person who meets the eligibility criteria under the applicable refugee definition, as provided for in international or regional refugee instruments, under UNHCR’s mandate, and/or in national legislation. Refugee Status Determination (RSD): Legal and administrative procedures undertaken by States and/or UNHCR to determine whether an individual should be recognized as a refugee in accordance with national and international law. Sexual orientation: The attraction we feel towards people of a particular gender(s).


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugee Project

Preface: Michael Barron, Executive Director, BeLonG To BeLonG To, Ireland’s national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) young people, was founded in 2003. For the last ten years, we have been providing direct support to LGBT young people, as well as an advocacy and campaigning voice on issues affecting LGBT youth in Ireland. Throughout this period, there have always been a small but significant number of young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees accessing BeLonG To. Many of these young people had suffered huge trauma, and were entirely alone in Ireland. The isolation and marginalisation experienced by this group prompted us to seek funding for a project solely dedicated to improving the safety and quality of life of these extremely vulnerable young people. In 2010, we were successful and the project formally began in April 2011, co-financed by the European Commission under the European Refugee Fund (ERF) and supported by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in the Department of Justice and Equality, Pobal and the Health Services Executive (HSE). At BeLonG To, we recognised that only a very small number of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees would find their way to our door, whereas the majority would be accessing services which had never had the opportunity to formally build capacity on such an invisible group. We therefore designed a twin track project which would address both the needs of service providers working with asylum seekers and refugees or LGBT groups, and the needs of the young people at individual level. Based on a needs analysis conducted with statutory and voluntary service providers, and LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth themselves, we designed and delivered training to agencies and organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees or LGBT communities (with a focus on youth and young adults). These trainings aimed to assist mainstream service providers to build LGBT inclusive services and to work sensitively with LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people. The trainings for LGBT organisations provided information on the international and national protection frameworks and relevant Irish legislation. Through the Project Youth Workers, we also provided direct support and referral to LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth, and members of their families. Over the course of the project, BeLonG To has benefitted hugely from the information and support provided by a range of statutory and voluntary organisations, and committed individuals. The input of our Project Steering Committee has been invaluable, and for this we express our heartfelt appreciation.

Today we are seeing great strides in the long march towards LGBT equality. However, terrible persecution of LGBT people continues to exist all over the world. We dedicate this report to all those who have been forced to seek international protection on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To all BeLonG To’s asylum seeking and refugee youth, we salute you, we commend your bravery and we will do our best to continue to support you however we can. Michael Barron Executive Director, BeLonG To Youth Services

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Contents: Page 05

Background to the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project

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Key Principles for Working with LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees

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Enhancing Our Knowledge of the Issues: Needs Analysis

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Building Partnerships

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Mainstreaming of LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Voices

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Capacity Building for Long Term Awareness.

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Mainstreaming Best Practice in Your Service

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Conclusion

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Acknowledgments


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Background Following ten years of service provision to LGBT youth in Ireland, it became apparent within BeLonG To that the needs of LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people were sufficiently complex to merit a dedicated project. BeLonG To spoke to partner LGBT organisations including Outhouse and the HSE Gay Men’s Health Service who corroborated and supported the need for a programme exclusively aimed at asylum seeking and refugee youth. Subsequently BeLonG To applied for funding and was successful; the project formally began in April 2011, co-financed by the European Commission under the European Refugee Fund (ERF) and supported by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in the Department of Justice and Equality, Pobal and the HSE. The project was focussed on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees under 30 years of age, in line with the EU definition of youth.

The pilot project on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees is the first of its kind in Ireland, and one of the very few within the EU. The objective of the Project was to improve the safety and quality of life of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom face isolation and vulnerability on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The project sought to develop best practice models for mainstreaming LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in the statutory and voluntary services which work with asylum seekers and refugees or LGBT communities. These best practices form the basis of this report. Traditionally, BeLonG To’s engagement with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees was limited to direct support at individual level. In order to commence a pilot which would meet the needs of service providers, it was necessary for BeLonG To to create new networks and relationships with organisations and agencies working with asylum seekers and refugees. BeLonG To thus established a Project Steering Committee composed of the representatives of key organisations working with both asylum seekers and refugees, and LGBT communities. The Steering Committee provided a forum for mutual learning between the asylum/refugee and LGBT groups, which traditionally had little interaction. The Steering Committee also provided BeLonG To with the contacts of key stakeholders with which BeLonG To had not had a prior relationship. The Project Steering Committee was instrumental in giving feedback on, and endorsing, the modules developed by BeLonG To for training services. Twelve trainings were delivered to statutory and voluntary agencies working with asylum seekers and refugees, and three trainings were delivered to LGBT organisations. These trainings led to a variety of initiatives being taken by various services. Following the completion of the capacity building stage of the project, we have developed a number of resources, as well as this report and a short video on the experiences of our asylum seeking and refugee youth in Ireland. As the project comes to a close, we hope that these will go some way towards addressing the needs of service providers to better support LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.

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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Principles for Working with LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees The project sought to improve the capacity and knowledge of statutory services, voluntary services and LGBT organisations by developing a best practice model for inter-agency work that would raise awareness within target services. The importance of this objective hinged on the fact that the shortterm nature of the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project (funded as a two-year pilot) necessitated that if sustainable change was to be established past the life span of the project, services needed to be provided with approaches and tools to complement their own practice. Over the course of the project, several steps were identified that could provide a best-practice guide which could be adapted by

services to ensure that awareness of the challenges faced by LGBT asylum seekers and refugees were mainstreamed in their services. The Project Needs Analysis identified several areas where service providers lacked confidence in working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. Basing our approach around these gaps, BeLonG To spent significant time over the course of the project establishing a model which would be flexible, and could be built upon internally, following initial training from BeLonG To.


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Section 1: Enhancing our Knowledge of the Issues Needs Analysis on the Situation of Young LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Ireland

in Direct Provision accommodation. Services provided by interviewees included, though were not restricted to:

There is a dearth of information at both international and national level pertaining to the situation of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. Recent developments, including the updated UNHCR Guidance on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (November 2012), have been significant in raising awareness amongst key stakeholders on the situation of LGBT refugees worldwide. However, there remains an absence of dedicated research on this group. When the BeLonG To project started, it was recognized internally that in order to be relevant and to have buy-in, any programme seeking to address the situation of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland needed to be extremely tailored to needs identified by stakeholders, with input from the target group. Crucially, outreach conducted with services at the initial stage of the project repeatedly uncovered concerns amongst service providers that in the absence of any research, programmatic interventions to support LGBT asylum seekers and refugees would be extremely challenging.

Legal advice Legal representation Referrals Social welfare queries and appeals Counselling and peer support Youth services LGBT specific support Advocacy and Policy Healthcare for Direct Provision residents General information on the asylum system in Ireland Housing and accommodation support Training to national minority ethnic networks

Therefore, in order to determine current resources and challenges facing statutory and NGO services in meeting the needs of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, BeLonG To undertook a needs analysis that involved consulting both service providers and LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth. We conducted the needs analysis in early 2011, with input and support from the Project Steering Committee. The Project Steering Committee is composed of representatives from AkiDwA, Barnardos, the HSE Gay Men’s Health Service, the HSE Health Promotion Office – Dublin North East, the Irish Refugee Council, OutHouse and the UNHCR (observer). The Steering Committee contributed to and supported both the methodology and the findings of the Needs Analysis. This input was key as it ensured that both asylum/refugee service providers and LGBT service providers - working at both statutory and community level - were able to contribute. During June and July 2011, BeLonG To interviewed seventeen service providers: fifteen mainstream asylum and refugee organisations and statutory agencies, and two LGBT organisations. In addition to the service providers interviewed, BeLonG To held meetings with representatives of government agencies working with asylum seekers and refugees in order to garner additional information. BeLonG To also interviewed a member of the Refugee Representative Group then living

Overall, the majority of organisations contacted for interview were welcoming and supportive of both BeLonG To and the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project. Many organisations volunteered contacts whose experience was considered useful for the needs analysis and the Project as a whole.

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“Agencies do not know what they n asylum and refugee issues tend to k and LGBT organisations tend to kno and refugees’ issues.” - Service Provi

However, a small number of service providers did not see how the Project would relate to their work, and were somewhat reticent during the interview process. Eleven of the agencies and organisations interviewed had either direct experience of working with LGBT asylum seekers or refugees, or were aware of asylum and refugee service users who were LGBT. Of the fifteen asylum and refugee service providers interviewed, only one had received LGBT training, and that training had been delivered by BeLonG To. For the purposes of the needs analysis, BeLonG To also sought to interview young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. Making contact with LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth proved challenging for the project youth worker at this early stage, despite BeLonG To’s long history of working with young people from this group. During June and July 2011, BeLonG To approached 11 relevant services, and conducted outreach to young people who had previously attended BeLonG To. BeLonG To successfully made contact with five young people, three former or current BeLonG To participants and two referrals from other services. While the reduced number of asylum claims since 2009 is a factor, the difficulty in making contact with young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees during this period reflects the serious levels of marginalisation and invisibility they face. The information provided by the needs analysis allowed BeLonG To to develop training modules that targeted the specific concerns and gaps in knowledge identified by services when working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. In addition, the needs analysis provided BeLonG To with a body of credible research with which to approach services that had previously been unaware of the significant issues facing LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, particularly in relation to access to service provision. The fact that the voices of LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth were to the fore in BeLonG To’s research aided buy in from services at senior management level.

Findings of Needs Analysis: LGBT Asylum Seeking and Refugee Youth Responses Overall, young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees reported that safety and isolation were serious difficulties for them, but that supportive service providers could make an incredible difference. The findings were as follows: • Safety was a major issue in direct provision, especially due to shared bedrooms • Shared rooms also forced young people to go to extreme lengths to hide their identities, such as acting more masculine. • Negative attitudes to LGBT people were expressed by other residents. • There was concern that other residents could discover you were LGBT through lack of privacy about the types of medical tests and services you received. • Coming out to other residents was seen as rarely possible. • Young people interviewed came out to service providers who were seen as supportive, e.g. a psychologist at a reception centre and some staff in a homeless shelter. • As a result of awareness about her sexual orientation, a young lesbian living in a homeless shelter for young people experienced numerous incidents of sexual harassment, by five different perpetrators – these were reported and staff responded well. • The restrictions of life as an asylum seeker in direct provision were highlighted, one young person noted that, other than having food and shelter, the only positive aspect of direct provision was that one was free to leave the building. • Young people used a range of NGO services, and had largely positive experiences, although they were not always openly LGBT in these services. • Young people participated in BeLonG To’s LGBT youth services, which had a major positive impact, increasing comfort with their identities and helping them make friends.


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

need to know. NGOs who work on know nothing about LGBT issues, ow nothing about asylum seekers ider.

• Participation in other aspects of the LGBT community was seen as mixed, at times very helpful, at other times leading to experiences of racism, especially in commercial gay venues, e.g. differential treatment by bar doormen, and bar patrons assuming that Black gay men are sex workers and that Black women must be heterosexual. • Young people had mixed experiences of family support and were open about their identities to few or none of their family members.

Service providers reported the following gaps: • Insufficient awareness of LGBT issues amongst mainstream services: prior to BeLonG To’s Project there was no programme specifically addressing LGBT asylum seekers & refugees issues, thus a marked lack of knowledge and capacity amongst these organisations. • Insufficient awareness and understanding of LGBT issues among relevant government officials. • Lack of training on LGBT issues amongst professionals working with asylum seekers and refugees, including legal practitioners, case workers, decision makers, interpreters and privatised Direct Provision staff. • Interpreters are often from the same region as the asylum seeker, and issues regarding the use of sensitive terminology and confidentiality arise. • Lack of sufficient early legal advice prior to casework. • Lack of sufficient protection of LGBT people living in Direct Provision accommodation. • Lack of empirical evidence on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees issues. • Lack of resources to address the needs of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees – including budget constraints and human resource issues. • Absence of awareness-raising work amongst asylum seeking and refugee communities on sexual orientation and gender identity in their own cultures. • Though a different demographic, service providers highlighted the fact that LGBT migrants face many of the same challenges as asylum seekers and refugees.

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Section 2. Building Partnerships A. Establishing a Forum for Mutual Learning It was essential that BeLonG To established and subsequently brought together the key players working with either LGBT communities, or asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland. These organizations could both bridge the gap between these two focus areas, and bring significant expertise to the project. In addition, it was envisaged that these organizations would act as advocates within their own networks for the project, which would open doors which may previously have been closed to BeLonG To. For this initiative to be successful, the make-up of the project Steering Committee had to be representative of various sectors working with the target group. As well as those working in statutory as well as non-governmental agencies, it was important that a migrant-led group and members of the target group be included. Given the Project’s emphasis on young people, we also aimed to ensure that where possible, there was a youth focus amongst those involved. The final make-up of the Project Steering Committee was thus as follows: • AkiDwA (represented by the then Chair of Board) • Barnardos (represented by Separated Children’s Officer and Advocacy Officer) • Health Service Executive’s Gay Men’s Health Service (represented by Manager) • Health Service Executive, Dublin North East (represented by Ethnic Minorities Officer) • Irish Refugee Council (represented by Children and Young Persons’ Officer) • UNHCR (Observer) (represented by Protection Associate and External Relations Associate) The relationship between Asylum and Refugee organizations and LGBT groups fostered by BeLonG To was intended not only to build capacity amongst the agencies concerned, but also to begin a process whereby coherent referral pathways would be established between the different groups around the table. Previously referral between Asylum and Refugee organisations and LGBT organizations had been arbitrary and ad hoc. In time, a wraparound approach to service provision would be implemented. Following consultation with the LGBT asylum seeking and refugee

young people engaged with BeLonG To, these young people opted to give their input on the project via the Project youth worker. It was agreed that the Project youth worker would appraise the young people of all developments at Steering Committee level, and seek their input. By engaging key stakeholders across the sector, it was envisaged that the expertise and continued learning harnessed at the Steering Committee would contribute to mainstreaming of LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth in both the organizations involved, and within their own networks. This would go a long way in creating LGBT and migrant inclusive services past the close of the Project itself.


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

B. Building Relationships to Facilitate Change Before BeLonG To developed a specific project on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, there were gaps in knowledge, referral links and in delivery of services. NGOs and Community groups came together on certain thematic issues, but the specific needs of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees often tended to fall through the cracks. As LGBT specific referrals are limited in circumstances where service users may not feel safe coming out to a service provider, the number of referrals being made to LGBT organizations from asylum and refugee organizations was relatively low. In addition, many service providers identified that they were not familiar with LGBT services, especially outside of Dublin. This had a significant effect on LGBT young people who were dispersed through the direct provision system. In order for BeLonG To to mainstream awareness of the issues affecting LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, and the need for LGBT support referral pathways, relationship building had the possibility of really making an impact. With the assistance of the Steering Committee, a system of outreach was designed involving both the Project Coordinator and the Project Youth Worker. The Project Coordinator was responsible for meeting with representatives of key organizations to introduce the project and to build links, and to assess whether these organizations wished to partake in the Project training. Many organizations reiterated an issue that arose frequently in the needs analysis; without dedicated LGBT training on the situation of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, many service providers were uncomfortable addressing issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. This resulted in a higher number of organizations than initially expected wishing to avail of the training. Simultaneously, the Project youth worker was responsible for conducting outreach to organizations and agencies who delivered direct services to asylum seekers and refugees. These included Direct Provision Centres in Dublin and Meath, Community Based Organisations and psycho-social support organisations. While conducting sensitization on the project with partner LGBT organizations, issues surrounding lack of awareness of the asylum system continually arose. This information was later used to inform training for LGBT organization on Asylum and Refugee issues.

During this period the voices of BeLonG To’s LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth were crucial. These young people informed the Project youth worker which organizations and individuals were important to engage with for sensitization on the project. They gave ideas for ways in which these organizations could become more aware of LGBT and asylum and refugee issues generally, and how that could be signalled through the built environments of the services in question. BeLonG To also increased its visibility amongst Asylum and Refugee organizations more generally at this time. We became an observer to the NGO Forum on Direct Provision, and attended various other joint advocacy initiatives and coalitions. We also sought to actively support Asylum and Refugee Organisations through attendance at their events and launches, and also gave presentations at LGBT initiatives including the HSE Annual Gay Health Forum. At European level, BeLonG To linked with other EU projects working on LGBT asylum and refugee issues by attending the Fleeing Homophobia Conference in Amsterdam in 2011, and presenting the work of the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project at the Annual Double Jeopardy Conference at the University of Greenwich in 2012. The relationships built at these platforms enabled BeLonG To to improve its own referral pathways for young people engaged with BeLonG To who were subsequently deported to other EU countries due to the Dublin II regulation. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, BeLonG To acted as a facilitator for organizations to link with each other in a manner that will continue long after the close of the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project.

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Section 3: Support and Mainstreaming of LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Voices a) Involving and Consulting LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth “I think it’s really important for me to tell my story, because it connects people to my situation and lets them understand what is happening in Africa and other countries everyday for gays and lesbians.” -Young lesbian asylum seeker.

The LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people made a number of recommendations on their situation, which they felt should be addressed through the project. These included: • On arrival, asylum seekers and refugees should automatically receive information on LGBT issues and services from the statutory bodies and NGOs working with them.

BeLonG To’s LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth were a critical element of the Project. Their input was sought at every stage, and their voices were mainstreamed in all the activities of the Project. It was also critical to continue to engage new LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, yet gaining access to a group so invisible and marginalized remained a challenge, despite our history of support to young people from these groups.

• NGO staff should be well-informed regarding LGBT issues.

From the beginning of the project, the outreach conducted by the Project youth worker was informed by the LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth involved in the project. The young people were very clear on a number of points:

• LGBT services could be consulted as sources of information on the situation of LGBT people around the world by decision makers.

• Designing resources that were identifiably Gay could either place those accessing them at risk, or would run the risk of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees failing to recognize them due to the westernised nature of LGBT symbols including the Pride Flag and certain language. • Many young asylum seekers and refugees would find BeLonG To by using the internet, but others would be too afraid to search for LGBT specific support online in case they were seen and outed (for example by using computers in common spaces in direct provision accommodation). Others would be unfamiliar with computers and language barriers would also prevent online linkages. • If BeLonG To was to conduct training for Asylum/Refugee services, specific focus must be paid to encouraging services to establish environments which could be identified as LGBT inclusive by asylum seekers and refugees.

• Homophobia in direct provision accommodation and support services should be eliminated. • LGBT identities need to be acknowledged when living arrangements are made, and options discussed with LGBT services.

These issues were routinely addressed with service providers and informed sections of the Project’s training modules. The young people worked on the design of outreach materials and reviewed resources at various stages of the Project. They were introduced to the content of the training modules by the Project youth worker, and gave feedback. This ensured that the areas which they felt most affected their situation were addressed. By mainstreaming the voices of the young people across the project, BeLonG To was hoping to in some way restore a sense of self-efficacy and control that many of the young people had noted is taken from them while in the asylum system. Lastly, BeLonG To organized various media activities to enable LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people to anonymously share their stories with wide audiences in their own words. In addition to interviews in the mainstream and gay media, BeLonG To worked with a film company to produce a short video on the experiences of some of our LGBT asylum seeker and refugees.


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

“Without BeLonG To and counselling I don’t think I could have been half way through this, I could have given up.”

B) One to One Support for LGBT Asylum Seeking and Refugee Youth The provision of one to one support to young people in the project was a significant element in the development of the service. As an isolated group, many LGBT asylum seekers and refugees can be reluctant to talk about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to organisations and individuals, as well as to peers. Many young people identified that this was due to the stigma that surrounded these issues in their home countries. Some also felt fear due to a lack of awareness of the attitudes and norms towards LGBT people in Ireland. The existence of a specific service for this group of asylum seekers and refugees largely overcame this issue, along with encouraging their participation in LGBT friendly services more generally. The majority of the young people we work with came out for the very first time in their interviews with ORAC. BeLonG To was the second place most of the young people in the Project came out. Finding a safe space to share their histories and receive support was, and continues to be, a crucial part of their personal development. Being able to discuss personal difficulties and experiences of persecution without risk of re-traumatisation is hugely significant to the experience of an LGBT young person. Key to enabling this environment is fostering an understanding of the type of issues that LGBT asylum and refugee youth face, as well as ensuring staff have been trained and can utilise appropriate support strategies during individual one to one sessions. Recurrent themes that young people have talked about during one to one support sessions included the following: • Physical and sexual violence, and other forms of persecution encountered • Internalised homophobia • Suicidal ideation • Coming out • Isolation and rejection • Home sickness • Fear of being “outed” in Ireland • Sexual/general health • Trauma • Relationships • LGBT social supports Delivering this type of support sensitively is contingent on the approach of the worker. Appropriate understanding of these areas is important to be able to work through them with a young person.

Consequently the project youth worker was up-skilled by training on working with the impact of sexual violence and other trauma experienced by refugees and asylum seekers. The shared knowledge of the Steering Committee and the youth work team within BeLonG To was also utilised in developing this work. Language barriers can prove an issue for some of the young people accessing this type of support. With the help of our Steering Committee BeLonG To was able to access interpreters who had a background in interpreting asylum and refugee issues. The youth worker met with interpreters prior to engagement to give an overview of BeLonG To’s services and to familiarize the interpreters with LGBT sensitive terminology. Ensuring principles and ethics of interpreting were explained to and understood by the young person was particularly important. A specific focus was placed on areas relating to the young person’s confidentiality, and the impartiality of the interpreter to ensure the young person felt comfortable. Working relationships were built between the Project youth worker and other professionals giving support to the young people in the service (including legal, mental health, housing and welfare supports). This was done with the consent of the young person when any correspondence was made, and was crucial to ensuring a wrap around approach to the support and ensured no duplication. The importance of this multi faceted approach was explained by one young person: “Without BeLonG To and counselling I don’t think I could have been half way through this, I could have given up.” These relationships have also been important for gaining knowledge of appropriate referral pathways. Ensuring that the young people who attended BeLonG To’s Project were aware of the limitations of the project youth worker’s role was vital. The Project youth worker encouraged and supported the young people’s participation in other relevant organizations, and this was crucial to ensuring that support possibilities were broad, and not focused on one point, or one person. Access to peer support and integration opportunities with other LGBT young people were also important in strengthening support networks for LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, who frequently experience marginalisation.

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Section 4: Capacity Building for Long Term Awareness

Section 5: Mainstreaming best practices in Your Service.

Aware of the short-term nature of the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project, and the absence of funding for similar initiatives, BeLonG To was eager to ensure that our capacity building initiatives were sustainable and would address gaps in the long term. Therefore tailoring training to the gaps identified by services in the needs analysis was imperative. The training was thus developed to encompass five key areas, adapted to whether the module was for Asylum and Refugee Organisations or LGBT Organisations:

A. Linking with Other Service Providers

Topics for Asylum and Refugee Organisations: BeLonG To & National LGBT Services Attitudes to and Awareness of LGBT issues LGBT Sensitive Terminology Challenges facing LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Coming Out and Confidentiality Building LGBT Inclusive Services Topics for LGBT Organisations BeLonG To & National LGBT & AS/Refugee Services Attitudes to and Awareness of Refugee Issues Asylum/Refugee Legal Definitions The Asylum Process in Ireland Challenges facing LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Building Refugee Inclusive Services Primarily the key element in both modules was to ensure mainstreaming of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in these services. In order for this to occur, training had to be based on addressing both the attitudinal and structural barriers to full and equal access to service provision for LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth. The trainings employed exercises designed to elicit discussion regarding the prejudices that many people hold with regard to both LGBT people and migrants, followed by case studies. The final stage of the workshop was a brainstorming session which focused on institutional change to ensure LGBT and migrant inclusive service provision.

For asylum and refugee organisations and services, linking with LGBT groups will assist in ensuring an LGBT inclusive approach. LGBT organisations could be consulted or involved in various programmatic aspects, including policy consultation, campaigning, advocacy and health awareness. For LGBT organisations, including a migrant focus in programmes and community events would greatly alleviate the sense of isolation many young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees feel. Familiarity with other services will also allow smooth referral of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees to appropriate services where possible. B. Consulting LGBT Asylum Seeking and Refugee Youth The youth workers in BeLonG To can assist any service to consult with LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth on aspects of their practice or programme endeavours. By linking with BeLonG To, organisations can mainstream a cohort of asylum seekers and refugees who are often invisible in broader awareness raising initiatives. An example of good practice in this area was the recent mission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, to Dublin in October 2012. During the meetings held between the High Commissioner and persons of concern, the UNHCR Ireland Office ensured that the High Commissioner met with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. While this entailed additional logistical arrangements on UNHCR’s part as the young people had to meet the High Commissioner in private as they were uncomfortable mixing with the broader persons of concern population, it demonstrated a keen awareness of the importance of this group and the sensitivities involved. The fact that the UN High Commissioner made time to listen to the details of their situation imbued the young people with greater confidence.


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

“I don’t think I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for BeLonG To. I really wanted to kill myself. But they have helped me a lot, I have grown, and I have learned how to accept myself” (Gay male refugee) C. On-line and In-Service Many LGBT asylum seeking and refugee youth are painfully isolated and marginalised in service provision. They are uncomfortable coming out to service providers and fear that their LGBT identity may not be welcome. This is often a result of traumatic experiences in countries of origin. In order to assist LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people to feel safe and welcomed in services, the built environment is very important. Placing LGBT inclusive posters in your service is a big step – many of the young people we work with reported that seeing an LGBT poster in services they frequented made a big difference to their sense of safety and self-esteem. A positive example of this was the decision of Balseskin Reception Centre and Hatch Hall Direct Provision Centre to place BeLonG To LGBT posters in public areas of these centres. This meant that many young people both saw these posters and felt included and were able to access BeLonG To, but also that a wider message was delivered that these environments were welcoming of LGBT asylum seekers, at least from a management perspective. Other key services also placed LGBT posters in their offices, including the Irish Refugee Council. Having outreach cards and information flyers for LGBT services available in your offices is very important. Where young people had been afraid to, or unable to search for gay services on the internet, many found BeLonG To by picking up the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugee Project outreach cards. LGBT inclusive text on websites, and links to BeLonG To and LGBT services sends a strong signal that LGBT asylum seekers and refugees are supported and welcomed in migrant services. Likewise, LGBT Services should ensure that information flyers for migrant organisations are readily available in their services. These should contain information on both legal advice organisations and broader support. Links to asylum and refugee organisations should be carried on websites, alongside text and graphics which are inclusive of asylum seekers and refugees. The gay media can also play a part in mainstreaming the voices of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees within the LGBT community – the Gay Community News (GCN) featured an interview with one of BeLonG To’s young asylum seekers which was very powerful and sent a strong message of inclusion. Likewise, the mainstream media, including the Irish Times have shed light on the situation of vulnerable LGBT asylum seeking youth by also featuring interviews with BeLonG To’s young people.

Lastly, staff should have access where possible to LGBT and diversity training. Where staff has been trained, their level of comfort in working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees has increased. Positive developments have been undertaken, including staff developing codes of conduct for working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. One such example of this was the initiative taken by Balseskin Reception Centre and Hatch Hall Direct Provision Centre, who developed a policy on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees after receiving training from BeLonG To. D. Address Homophobic Incidents if they occur. Having a policy on LGBT asylum seekers and refugees can assist staff in addressing any cases of homophobic discrimination they encounter in service provision. Homophobic discrimination can often occur amongst asylum seekers and refugees, and needs to be addressed firmly by management. Staff should monitor and record any incident of homophobic discrimination, including bullying, and address these incidents accordingly (for further information on combating homophobic bullying see BeLonG To’s website.

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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” – Gandhi. Section 6: Conclusion Ensuring the protection and integration of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland is all of our responsibilities. LGBT asylum seekers and refugees have been persecuted, marginalised and isolated for far too long. In BeLonG To we found this project to be a valuable initial platform for raising awareness on the situation of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees and enhancing the capacity of organisations to welcome and support them. This project has been a process of mutual learning between ourselves, young LBGT asylum seekers and refugees, and our partner organisations. We look forward to strengthening our relationships with statutory and voluntary organisations that work with asylum seekers and refugees. We are also committed to working hard to offer the best possible support to young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. We hope to live up to the words of this young participant in the project. “I have framed an outreach card for the LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project and put it on my living room wall. For me, finding that card was the first moment in Ireland when I realized that I was going to be OK, that there were people who would accept me and that I had found a home.”

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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Further Resources COC Netherlands: Fleeing Homophobia, Asylum Claims Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Europe, September 2011: www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4ebba7852.html

Samantha K. Arnold: The Culture of Credibility in the United Kingdom and Ireland and the Sexual Minority Refugee’. Irish Law Times, (2012) 30 ILT 55

European Agency for Fundamental Rights: Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States. Part II: The Social Situation, March 2009.

UNHCR: The Protection of LGBTI Asylum Seekers and Refugees, UNHCR Discussion Paper, 2010.

Human Rights First: Persistent Needs and Gaps: the Protection of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender and Intersex (LGBTI) Refugees. September 2010: www.humanrightsfirst.org/ wp-content/uploads/pdf/Persistent-Needs_LGBTI_Refugees_ FINAL.pdf International Commission of Jurists: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law - A Practitioners Guide, 2009, (Practitioners Guide No. 4) http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4a783aed2.html International Commission of Jurists: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Justice: A Comparative Law Casebook, 2011: www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4f9eae7c2.html Michael O’Flaherty & John Fisher: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualising the Yogyakarta Principles”: Human Rights Law Review, 2008, 8 (2), pp. 207-248 ORAM: Opening Doors - A Global Survey of NGO Attitudes Towards LGBTI Refugees & Asylum Seekers, June 2012: www.oraminternational.org/images/stories/PDFs/oramopening-doors.pdf ORAM: Rainbow Bridges – A Community Guide to Rebuilding the Lives of LGBTI Refugees and Asylees www.oraminternational.org/images/stories/PDFs/oramrainbow-bridges-2012-web.pdf Refugee Support: Over not Out: The housing and homelessness issues specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers, 2009. www.refugeesupport.org.uk/documents/MST_LGBTreport_ screen_0509.pdf

UNHCR: Guidelines on International Protection No. 9: Claims to Refugee Status based on Sexual Ori-entation and/or Gender Identity within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 23 October 2012, www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/50348afc2.html [accessed 27 November 2012] UNHCR: Reception Standards for Asylum Seekers in the European Union, 1 July 2000: www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b3440.html Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orien-tation and gender identity, March 2007: www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/48244e602.html


BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project

Acknowledgements The Key Principles for Working with LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees report was written by Marissa Ryan and John Duffy, with valuable input from Michael Barron and Carol-Anne O’Brien. Sincere thanks to the members of the Project Steering Committee for their incredible support to this project overall and their feedback on this report: Samantha Arnold (Irish Refugee Council), MonicaAnne Brennan (AkiDwA), Carl Grainger (UNHCR), Catherine Joyce (Barnardos), Yolanda Kennedy (UNHCR), Sandra Okome (Health Promotion Department, HSE Dublin North East), Mick Quinlan (HSE Gay Men’s Health Services), Itayi Viriri, and Dil Wickremasinghe (Outhouse). We would especially like to thank Dr. Nazih Eldin of the HSE Dublin North East Office, and Ronan Tierney, Ciara Flanagan and Ciara Meehan from Pobal, without whose support this whole project would not have been possible. Thank you to Rosemary Wokocha and Bernadette Donlon of One Family for their work on the project, and Pete Reddy of Redman AKA Graphic Design.

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BeLonG To. LGBT Asylum Seekers & Refugees Project


Key Principles for Working with LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees  

Key Principles for Working with LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees

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