HUMAN rights organisation Kaleidoscope Australia has developed the first guide of its kind to processing LGBTI refugees.

The Best Practice Guide, written in collaboration with global law firm K&L Gates, is intended to provide governments, refugee advocates, and NGOs with a basic introductory tool..

President of Kaleidoscope Australia Dr Paula Gerber said, “Our hope is that this guide will assist governments around the world to properly and fairly assess applications for refugee status based on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first guide to give detailed, practical guidance on how to interview asylum seekers, to provide sample questions that are appropriate to ask.”

A 2012 survey conducted by the Organisation for Refuge, Asylum and Migration International on attitudes towards LBGTI refugees and asylum seekers found that around 175 million LGBTI people were living in places where they faced persecution.

From that number, the report projects that of the 5000 that apply for asylum, less than 3000 are granted protection each year.

The low success rates are potentially attributed to assessments based on gender stereotypes, such as a male claimant’s perceived femininity or woman’s masculinity, whether they were married or had children, went to gay clubs, or were familiar with modern gay pop culture and icons such as Oscar Wilde.

Concerns have been raised in the past where refugees seeking asylum for persecution based on sexuality have been confronted with the task of having to “prove” their sexuality.

The process has involved refugees seeking and presenting video or photographic evidence of their participating in sexual acts in order to make credible their claims.

The guide covers procedures of “ascertaining credibility” in a respectful manner, and dealing with applicants who are uncomfortable or who have not disclosed their sexual orientation.

It details the type of information decision-makers should seek and provides a list of appropriate open-ended and non-judgemental questions to ask claimants.

Managing Partner of K&L Gates Australia said the guide is “the most comprehensive guide available to assist those assessing the claims of refugees fleeing persecution because of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex grounds”.

The guide launched last night in Melbourne at an event featuring Dr Gerber and Dennis Altman from La Trobe’s Institute for Human Security and Social Change.

It is available for download here.

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