If a LGBTI person can “stay in the closet” in the country of origin, should she then be denied asylum as a refugee? This is currently a thorny issue for several European countries, when facing asylum seekers who apply for protection on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For this IMER seminar, Andrea Grønningsæter from the faculty of law at UiB will discuss how this is currently practiced in Norway.
Research has shown that that LGBTI people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people) often face specific legal and procedural challenges when applying for refugee status. In a number of jurisdictions, including Norway, LGBTI asylum seekers have been denied refugee status with reference to the fact that they can abstain from behavior that may result in a risk of persecution. A gay person can live as a gay within the confines of the home, for example, but not on the streets – and may thus not be granted protection. It is then concluded that the requirement in refugee law of establishing a ‘well-founded fear’ of persecution is not fulfilled, because concealment will mean that the asylum seeker is not revealed to potential persecutors.
In 2012 the Norwegian Supreme Court considered the right to refugee status based on sexual orientation (Rt. 2012 s. 494). In the court’s decision it was stated that a gay person may not be required to hide their sexual orientation in the country of origin to avoid persecution. In cases where it is concluded that the asylum seeker will choose to conceal their sexual orientation, the court established a step-by-step approach for assessing whether the asylum seeker is entitled to refugee status.
For her PhD project, Grønningsæter looks at how the approach that was established by the Supreme Court in 2012 for assessing asylum cases based on sexual orientation or gender identity is interpreted by the courts and the immigration authorities. She explores how the courts and immigration authorities establish the asylum seeker’s reason for concealment, as well as how concepts such as ‘being open’ or ‘discreet’ about sexual orientation or gender identity is understood.
A light lunch will be served. Welcome!
Andrea Grønningsæter is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, Bergen University.