Thursday, 19 May 2011

More pressure on Czechs to stop 'gay tests' of asylum seekers

By Paul Canning

Six months after we broke the news of the Czech Republic using a degrading 'gay test' on asylum seekers the European Union has called it "degrading"

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.

The Czech government has responded to prior 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.

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."
Now the EU has spoken
"The practice of phallometric tests constitutes a strong interference with the person's private life and human dignity. This kind of degrading treatment should not be accepted in the European Union, nor elsewhere," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Tuesday.
The commission said it had sent a further letter warning Prague that "concerns still remain" about phallometric tests, which appeared in breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

Breaches of EU law can result in the commission taking a member state to the EU's Court of Justice, which could order it to change its legislation or face hefty fines.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) said:
"The Czech Republic has presented no evidence that it has abolished this inhumane practice on gay asylum seekers."
ORAM has published an exhaustive legal and scientific analysis of phallometry.

Neil Grungras, Executive Director of ORAM said:
“Phallometry is an abuse of human rights.  In addition to being unreliable, the test is invasive and humiliating.  Asylum decision-makers need training on appropriate interviewing techniques – not pornography and electrodes – to help them evaluate the claims of refugees fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation.” 
“ORAM requested an abolition of further phallometric testing in a letter addressed to the Minister of the Interior of the Czech Republic on 22 December 2011. We still have received no response. In the name of the international community, we request an unequivocal statement from the Czech Republic that these procedures will no longer be used to determine the validity of refugees’ sexual orientation.” 
Two weeks ago UNHCR stated their disapproval of the 'gay test' saying:
"They [gay asylum seekers] 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."
Czech Interior Ministry spokesman Vladimír Řepka repeated previous protestations that phallometric tests have not been employed since 2009 and that the ministry no longer counts on their use.

He told Czech news website Czech Position:
“They were previously used to supplement other sexual diagnostic tests, and in the future we count on just using these.”
In December, they said that the tests had never been used more than 10 times in total and only when other methods failed to establish the truth of asylum seekers’ claims that they were gay. They added that cases where the practice was used had helped asylum claimants prove their case.

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