Are there gay people in Pakistan

Homosexual refugees encounter a hostile environment

The Rainbow Refugees Frankfurt initiative offers lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT for short) who have fled their homeland an initial orientation in Germany. The association supports them during the asylum process and helps them to build up a social environment. Knud Wechterstein, board member of Rainbow Refugees Frankfurt, spoke to Deutsche Welle about the problems that LGBT refugees can expect in Germany.

Deutsche Welle: "Marriage for everyone" was recently decided in Germany. Does that also mean progress for homosexual refugees?

Knud Wechterstein: The recognition of marriage for gays and lesbians is an important step towards equality. At the same time, however, Germany does not succeed in recognizing the right to asylum of refugees who were persecuted in their homeland because of their sexual orientation. We have to work on that.

What challenges do LGBT refugees face in Germany?

When they arrive in Germany, people with an LGBT orientation usually find an environment that is similarly homophobic to the environment from which they fled. Especially in the initial accommodation they experience hostility, violence and exclusion from their roommates. But the reasons for fleeing are not sufficiently addressed in the asylum procedure either. We experience that homosexual or transgender people flee from societies in which homosexuality is punishable by death, but whose asylum applications are rejected in Germany. The right to asylum exists because of this type of persecution.

There are frequent attacks on homosexual refugees in refugee shelters

How do the refugees themselves deal with their homosexuality?

Some refugees come here with the aim of living out their homosexuality openly from the very first second. In our experience, they also have the most success in the asylum procedure. Those who first have to admit their homosexuality to themselves, and possibly also live with their faith, which forbids them to become homosexual, find it much more difficult. This is also where mistakes happen in the hearings.

What exactly is going wrong in the asylum procedure?

They are not used to talking about their sexuality. During the hearing, they then have to get to the heart of the matter in a short period of time. But many need time to overcome their shame. In addition, the interpreters in the hearings often come from the same culture and reject homosexuality themselves. The refugees feel this and cannot openly state the reasons for their flight.

Knud Wechterstein, Rainbow Refugees Frankfurt

But it is not always up to the refugees - there are also wrong decisions on the part of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). For example, we do not share the BAMF's assessment that LGBT refugees could live safely in certain parts of their countries of origin - such as Pakistan.

We assume that the BAMF pays too much attention to the numbers and expects a certain number of decisions to be made each day. The personal fate of the refugees takes a back seat.

There is also a problem: the BAMF has trained listeners on the subject of LGBT refugees who can be requested for the interview. But nowhere is it communicated that this possibility exists.

Who is particularly affected?

Often gay and transgender people from Pakistan. Gay activity is forbidden there by law and there is a risk of at least ten years in prison. Society ostracizes and persecutes men and women who are gay or transgender. The people fleeing here from Pakistan have often been rejected by their families or have even been violently attacked by their relatives. But there seems to be a requirement in the BAMF to reject people from Pakistan in principle, regardless of why they fled.

People from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria feel the same way because these countries are considered safe countries of origin, even if homosexuals are persecuted there and human rights are not respected. Fewer people are currently coming to Germany than two years ago, but the situation is worsening for refugees.

Why is the situation getting worse?

People from countries that the BAMF considers safe only stay in the arrival centers. Before that, they were distributed to cities and municipalities, where they could build up a supportive environment or find an initiative like Rainbow Refugees. That’s all gone now. Your chances of asylum decrease.

We try to point out to politicians that the BAMF makes many wrong decisions and evaluates applications incorrectly. To do this, we are in contact with politicians, send them the minutes of the hearing and point out that we believe that wrong decisions are being made.

Difficulties in the asylum procedure: "Bad decisions are often made"

What can you say about the situation in the arrival centers?

We not only know about verbal attacks, but also about physical attacks. The cultural influences of the other refugees, often from the same language area, are often very homophobic.

How can you get other refugees to accept LGBT refugees?

It is important to convey to people how coexistence works in an open society. That is also our goal as Rainbow Refugees. Among other things, we go to German courses for refugees and explain what rights homosexuals have in Germany. Then we also talk about women's rights and religious freedom in Germany.

We are also planning to offer training on how to deal with LGBT refugees for volunteers and social workers who work with refugees.

The interview was conducted by Charlotte Hauswedell.