Many other gay people across Africa have to hide their sexuality | Photo: Reuters/J.Rinaldi
Many other gay people across Africa have to hide their sexuality | Photo: Reuters/J.Rinaldi

Lawyers working with the German Foreign Office have allegedly revealed the sexual identity of gay, lesbian and bisexual refugees to their home countries. The Lesbian and Gay Association of Germany (LSVD) referred to these instances as "human rights abuse" that has to be stopped immediately.

The Lesbian and Gay Association of Germany (LSVD) has accused German authorities of inadvertently revealing the sexual orientation of asylum seekers in multiple instances. It said that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) -- in a bid to check information available on the sexual identity of certain asylum seekers in several cases -- sent a list of questions to the Federal Foreign Office (foreign ministry), which in turn commissioned lawyers to conduct this research using the network of the German embassies.

"This is how confidential information from the asylum procedure was passed on to people in the home countries. In many cases, this spells out the end of their social existence" in the asylum seekers' home nations, LSVD board member Patrick Dörr told the epd news agency in Berlin. Asylum seekers in such cases would often lose touch with their families, who might have homophobic views. 

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LSVD stressed that "(t)he federal government must live up to its responsibility; it cannot put these people at additional risk, but has to protect them."

Persecution on the basis of sexual orientation is in principle recognized grounds for being granted asylum in Germany. LSVD says it knows of specific cases from Cameroon, Tanzania, Nigeria and Pakistan, mostly of gay or bisexual men. In all these countries, lesbians, gays and bisexuals are persecuted by law. The penal codes of these nations provide for prison sentences of several years; in Pakistan and in parts of Nigeria, even the death penalty can be applied.

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Waiting for accountability

The LSVD says it has proof of such events in at least two cases, in which it secured documents from the Foreign Office and BAMF. In a third case, it said it suspected a similar pattern to be at work.

"There is currently nothing to suggest that there are no further cases," Dörr told epd.

The Federal Foreign Office meanwhile told epd that it only works with lawyers for on-site research with whom it has had a long-standing working relationship based on trust. "They are regularly sensitized to the special circumstances that exist in such circumstances, and are expressly instructed to obey by the applicable data protection regulations."

LSVD added that it has known about the cases for more than six months, and is yet to receive any written confirmation saying that the Foreign Office will stop such practices and scrutinize its own methodology.

There has been no direct answer from BAMF, which referred the case on to the authority that overlooks and regulates its activities -- the Federal Ministry of Interior Affairs. There has been no explanation from that ministry thus far either.

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With epd, LSVD

 

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