Friday, 29 April 2011

UNHCR comes out against Czech 'gay test' on asylum seekers

By Paul Canning

The United Nations High Comission for Refugees (UNHCR) has spoken out against the Czech Republic's so called 'gay test' for LGB refugees.

The test is called 'phallometric testing'. Gay male asylum seekers - and according to De Spiegel at least one lesbian - are shown pornography and a machine is used to supposedly 'prove' whether of not they are gay.

LGBT Asylum News broke the news of its existence in December and it subsequently received largely bemused international media coverage.
UNHCR described the test as "intrusive and disproportionate" and that it "may amount to degrading treatment as prohibited by international legal standards". They said that instead an applicant’s sexual orientation "should be assessed based on his or her account who s/he is, how s/he lives in society and how s/he expresses who s/he is."
The organisation is developing guidance on how to assess such asylum claims. Several European countries have already developed guidance and NGOs have been pressing for an EU improvement in the treatment of LGBT asylum claims. This month the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for better guidance and also "guaranteeing that physical examinations fully respect human dignity and integrity".

The Czech government has responded to criticism by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency saying it will continue making the test available to those who request it. NGOs fear that those who decline to request the test could be denied refugee protection, and that desperate asylum seekers will “opt” for the procedure in the attempt to avoid being deported to countries where they fear persecution.  UNHCR has now said it agrees: "they are subject to pressure as a failure to take the examination could have a negative effect on the final decision. In such circumstances, the criteria for informed consent cannot be said to be fulfilled."

Magda Faltova, of Czech group Association for Integration and Migration, said that LGBT refugees have signed paperwork without understanding what they were in for and under pressure to undergo the procedure.
"In no way was their consent informed. We had to explain it to them," she said. "And the question is what would have happened if they had not agreed."
"Determining the credibility of the claim, including of the applicant’s sexual orientation, should be done through the refugee status determination interview, the use of country of origin information on the situation of sexual minorities in the country of origin (including on the criminalization of same sex relationships), the assistance of NGOs working with homosexuals in the country of origin and in the host country. Investing in the training of staff in the examination of asylum claims based on sexual orientation will also assist the credibility assessment. The use of practices, such as phallometry, are therefore unnecessary."

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