By Melanie Nathan, November 24, 2014.
For the first time, an African LGBTI group will stage a demonstration at The Hague in the Netherlands, to draw attention to complaints arising out of how the Netherlands Immigration authorities treat the claims of LGBTI Africans seeking asylum in that country.
Out and Proud Diamond Group, an LGBT organization that helps LGBTI asylum seekers has received permission from the Mayor and the police of The Hague to carry out this first ever African LGBTI demonstration.
The demonstration is set to take place on the 27th Nov 2014 at Den Haag – at the Immigration and Neutralization Department (IND) Office Turfmarkt 147, The Hague.
The group is planning the demonstration to raise awareness about the plight of many LGBTI seeking asylum in the Netherlands, with the message that ‘refusing LGBTI Africans protection through asylum is tantamount to murder.’ The Police have also stated that their department will provide protestors with protection.
OPDG asserts that the group has planned this demonstration because:
“There has been a lot of disappointment on how Immigration and Neutralization Department has been treating LGBTI asylum seekers in Netherlands. We have been following closely on what has been transpiring and among them we observed the following issues with IND:
- At the moment almost all asylum cases re African gay refugees are referred to ‘Zevenaar’
- This IND assessment center produces more negative outcomes than other places in The Netherlands.”
Last month a member of OPDG was present at an asylum quest for an LGBTI community member from Africa. He noted the following 5 concerns when the officers were trying to verify sexuality:
- The IND officer and the interpreter did not seem comfortable at all to discuss subjects related to sex and intimate relationships. They even asked the refugee several times to discontinue the story because -as they said- it felt too personal. This made it for the refugee impossible to give a good account of feelings and happenings in Uganda.
- Certain cultural things were mentioned that the IND clearly had never heard about. As these were things that are fairly common in Uganda – we wonder if translators Luganda maybe leave them out.
- There were questions about the so called ‘gay scene in Holland’. Does IND realize that there is a difference between the ‘white gay scene’ in Amsterdam & places where people of other nationalities meet?
- There was a lot of confusion re ‘labels’. The refugee our representative was with preferred LGBT. The IND insisted on “homosexual and lesbian.” Because these words carry such a negative history culturally for the asylum seeker – it was difficult for the the asylee to use the terminology as desired by the officer. One wonders why the IND cannot simply go along with LGBT, whihc is universally accepted language?
- There is clearly a blind spot, in non-gay IND officers, on the workings of the ‘gaydar’. Sometimes you (or I) can ‘feel’ that a person is gay – even if they didn’t tell anybody. In a similar way certain heterosexual people can feel the difference and start to attack and hate – even if the victim never did anything like a coming out or whatever. “
This is an example of how problematic the treatment of asylum seekers can be. These misunderstandings, further complicated by language difficulties, cause many denials in life threatening situations. If LGBTI people are deported to home countries, they will often face serious persecution, arrests based on their sexual orientation, mob assaults and even the possibility of death. It is this cultural miscommunication that underpins the need to bring awareness, and according to OPDG, it can must be done at this time through public protest.
Abbey Kiwah, a Director of OPDG will be traveling to the Hague for the protest this week noted:
“It’s so sad to note how on the one hand the Dutch Government does whatever it can against the anti-gay laws in African countries like Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda, such as cutting funding, yet they still refuse to give protection to many of the LGBTI people escaping the anti-homosexuality legislation and persecution in those countries. Most of the times, LGBTI asylum seekers from Africa, are expected to behave like typical dutch gay people do, to be believed to qualify for protection. Anything less than that, you are told you are not gay ‘enough.’ This is why it is important to come out to expose the hypocrisy in the Dutch IND.”
The Hague, Den Haag, is the seat of the Dutch government; home to Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State in the Netherlands. Although not the capital, it hosts most foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organizations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major cities hosting the United Nations, along with New York, Brussels, Geneva, Bonn, Vienna, Tokyo and Nairobi.