Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sweden mistreating Russian trans asylum seeker, says she is actually a gay man

By Paul Canning

Sweden has told a trans Russia woman she's really a gay man and they can safely return her to Russia.

In December 2010, a Russian transgender woman, Lydia, from Arkhangelsk in North-Eastern Russia, and her partner Anton Schteinberg applied for asylum in Sweden.

According to Schteinberg, who runs a blog where she has written about their case, she was treated by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) as a gay man and told that it was possible for her to be safely returned to Russia as Russia was considered safe for gay men, so long as they lived 'discretely'.

Schteinberg says that although evidence was supplied from a leading Swedish expert on transgender people, Dr Cecilia Dhejne of Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset, this was not taken into account by Migrationsverket. Dhejne told the authorities:
"Sammanfattande bedömning utifrån egen undersökning och intyg enligt ovan som jag har läst är det min bedömning att rubricerad person har lidit av transsexualism och att hon fått behandling med könskorrigerande kirurgi. Hon har dock inte fått juridisk fastställelse som kvinna av ryska myndigheter. Hade rubricerad person varit svensk medborgare hade Socialstyrelsens Rättsliga rådet kunnat besluta om ett juridiskt könsbyte till kvinna. Det är min uppfattning att rubricerad person ska betraktas som kvinna och att hon har lidit av diagnosen transsexualism som hon nu fått behandling for med kvinnliga könshormoner." 
{Google translation]: "Overall assessment based on self-examination and certificate as above that I have read, it is my assessment that entitled person has been suffering from transsexualism and that she received treatment with gender corrective surgery. She has not been a legal determination as a woman of Russian authorities. Had headed person was a Swedish citizen had been the Board's Legislative Council could decide on a legal sex change to woman. It is my opinion that the entitled person is regarded as a woman and that she has suffered from the diagnosis of transsexualism as she received treatment for the female sex hormones."
However in Migrationsverket's decision on the case Lydia is consistently referred to as a man, including in the decision on her partner Anton.

Migrationsverket say that because homosexuality is no longer illegal in Russia, 'discrete' homosexuals can live safely:
"Lagar och förordningar är emellertid inte det största problemet för homosexuella i Ryssland utan en viss social stigmatisering och diskriminering som följer av att bryta gentemot rådande samhällsnormer." 
[Google translation]: "Laws and regulations are not the main problem for gays in Russia without a certain social stigma and discrimination resulting from the break against the prevailing social norms." 
"Även för det fall att du inte har möjlighet att ändra dina folkbokföringsuppgifter i Ryssland så förefaller det som att du har kunnat leva ett relativt fungerande liv i Ryssland sedan du påbörjade din förvandling till kvinna år 2007." 
[Google translation]: "Even if you do not have the opportunity to change your registration information in Russia so it seems like you have been able to live relatively functional lives in Russia since you started your transformation into a woman in 2007."
Lydia’s appearance has been changed greatly owing to hormonal treatment in Sweden. Anton says that should she be removed to Russia this would lead to her immediate arrest as her documents show a different looking person. This, he says, would lead to both of them to "become subjects of insults and tortures" and Anton says he fears this may even lead to their death if they are incarcerated in the Russian penal system.

Lydia told them that she was at risk of being persecuted by her relatives, either her or her partner’s ones. She related an incident when she was "mobbed" by police officers who checked her documents and found a  contradiction between her ID and her look. She says she suffered "abasement and real tortures at Russian police station."

"Du har under denna period endast stött på problem vid ett tillfälle då två enskilda poliser utsatte dig för förnedrande behandling i samband med en legitimering." 
[Google translation]: "You have in this period only run into problems at a time when two individual police officers exposed yourself to degrading treatment in the context of a legitimation."
Mistreatment of transgender people in Russia is documented and was submitted as part of the asylum claim.

Igor Kochetkov, Chairman of the Russian LGBT Network says:
“Being subjected constantly to discrimination…experiencing violence against them, and finding no support from the part of law enforcement bodies, some of transsexual persons resort to the only possible for them way out – namely, suicide”.
Says Anton:
"Transgender people in Russia do not have any opportunity to have a full-fledged life: to find a job; to get medical treatment (including vitally important hormonal therapy); constant discrimination and violence; who-cares policy of authorities (like: DON’T SEE, DON’T HEAR, DON’T TALK); and risk of arrest on the ground of contradiction between the IDs and the look that could be qualified as forgery (i.e. living under assumed name with somebody else’s documents."
He is angry that the Swedish asylum board describes this as “ett relativt fungerande liv” ("a rather functional life")

According to Anton, other European countries have granted asylum to Russian transgender people. He cites a case in Germany.

An asylum appeal has been filed, however she and Anton have been told that their prospects are not good because “everybody wants to live in Sweden."

Earlier this year we reported that Sweden had told an Iraqi lesbian couple that it was safe to return them despite them being under threat of 'honour' killing.

Anton made a number of allegations regarding the treatment of the couple by the Swedish LGBT organisation, RFSL, which offers support to LGBT asylum seekers.

He claims that RFSL did not support the couple with their case and that they were thrown out of accommodation found for them by an RFSL officer.

RFSL told us that they had supported the couple and it is not their practice to source accommodation for their clients.

Executive Director Maria Sjödin said:
"RFSL has supplied information to the Swedish Migration Board regarding this case and within that pointed out that the Swedish Migration Board in other cases have assessed that the situation for trans people in Russia is so severe that they have been granted permanent residence."

"In the case at hand, RFSL's involvement so far has been limited but help has not and is not denied. Unfortunately our resources are limited but this case is still being handled by us as an appeal is ongoing. Again, unfortunately, the process at the Swedish Migration Board is typically quite slow. RFSL focusses our assistance on help with the asylum process itself and typically cannot offer assistance in practial matters such as housing, social networks or the like (although we are about to initiate a group for social networking)."
Anton has asked for protest messages to be sent to:

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