Further training on LGBTQ+ asylum claims to be provided to Justice Department staff in Ireland

Although planning further training for its staff, the Department will not set up a dedicated panel of interviewers for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

This article is about training for interviewers of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. In the photo, people carrying signs in support of LGBTQ+ refugees.
Image: Via Twitter - @4refugeewomen

Irish international protection caseworkers are to receive further training regarding interviewing LGBTQ+ asylum seekers about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The plans for the additional training come after concerns were raised over inappropriate and insensitive questioning during the process.

The case-processing staff of the International Protection Office (IPO) already receives training on the assessment of claims regarding an asylum seeker’s sexual orientation and gender identity. However, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice confirmed, “The IPO intends to deliver further training in relation to assessing sexual orientation and gender identity claims in conjunction with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in 2023”.

Asylum seekers have a right to be granted refugee status in Ireland if they are at risk of persecution for their sexuality or gender identity in their home country. There are currently 68 countries in the world where same-sex activity is illegal, with 11 of them applying the death penalty.

IPO interviewers have to carry out a “credibility test” when an applicant claims that they are at risk of persecution for being LGBTQ+. However, many asylum seekers and activist groups have raised concerns over the line of questioning used during such tests, highlighting how it is often inappropriate and insensitive. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are often asked dehumanising questions about their sexual history and experiences of abuse and discrimination, forcing them to relive the trauma of those moments.

While the Department of Justice is planning further training for its staff, it is not going to set up a dedicated panel of interviewers for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, as recommended in the Believe me or not but I am who I am report published last year by the Irish Refugee Council and LGBT Ireland. The research aimed to give voice to queer asylum seekers and gave recommendations for reforms to the international protection assessment process following international law and best-practice guidelines.

In response to the report, the spokesperson for the Department of Justice commented, “The department is satisfied that all international protection applications are examined fairly, sensitively and impartially by fully trained caseworkers and contracted panel members in accordance with all relevant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and European Union Agency for Asylum guidelines.”

While the Department stated that it carries out monthly quality checks with the UNHCR on its asylum decisions, it has not published the interview standards and guidance that it uses to assess the credibility of LGBTQ+ applicants.

Brian Collins, Advocacy Service Manager with migrants rights centre Nasc, stated: “Given the sensitivity of the issues involved, Nasc believes that standards should be prepared and published for interviewers of LGBTI+ applicants which are in line with international law and best practice guidelines, including the relevant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) guidelines”.

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