Members of the European Parliament voted today to modernise the EU-wide system for examining asylum claims. Among the measures adopted today, groups of asylum-seekers with special needs were updated to include people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a report drafted by French centre-left MEP Sylvie Guillaume (Socialists & Democrats), the European Parliament adopted a series of amendments to guarantee that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people seeking asylum in the EU would receive particular attention.

Measures include providing expert advice to asylum officials on sexual orientation and gender identity; protecting claimants’ privacy; guaranteeing that physical examinations fully respect human dignity and integrity, for instance in cases involving minors or transgender people; and ensuring that applications by LGBT asylum-seekers are not ‘fast-tracked’ for removal to their country of origin.

“This is a major step towards fully complying with our engagements under international asylum law,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen, member of the centre-right European People’s Party and vice-president of the Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup,

“I am particularly proud that my centre-right colleagues agreed on the need for special protection, regardless of their general position on asylum. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection taking into account cultural sensitivity,” she added.

Rui Tavares MEP, Civil Liberties Coordinator of the left GUE/NGL political group and vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “The European Parliament is showing that asylum rules need updating to reflect reality: 76 countries criminalise homosexual acts, and seven foresee the death penalty – maybe eight soon, with Uganda.

“I regret that other progressive provisions did not pass, but today’s text will ultimately bring more fairness for LGBT asylum seekers.”

The text adopted today is the European Parliament’s formal position at first reading. Asylum rules will effectively be amended once EU governments examine the text and conclude an agreement with the European Parliament.

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