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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum: A European human rights challenge

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SOGICA (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum: A European human rights challenge)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-09-01 do 2020-10-31

This project generated a solid theoretically and empirically-grounded comparative and comprehensive picture of the status and legal experiences of people across Europe claiming international protection on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), and determined how the European asylum systems can treat more fairly asylum claims based on the claimant’s SOGI. This research overcame a gap by carrying out a study more in-depth than any other done in this field in the past, and produced outcomes that are unparalleled in terms of their reach.
The project’s main objectives were: 1) to analyse how SOGI-related claims are adjudicated in different asylum legal European frameworks (EU, CoE, Germany, Italy, UK), and 2) to produce detailed policy recommendations in regard to the national, European Union and Council of Europe legal systems, to the effect of developing a system that addresses adequately the socio-cultural, gender identity and sexual diversity of people claiming international protection.
This project adopted a combined comparative, intersectional, interdisciplinary (socio-legal), human rights and empirical approach to research this field. This approach ensured the unique character of the findings and potentiates their impact on improving the current law, policy and decision-making regarding SOGI asylum claims, which are increasingly under close scrutiny across Europe.
In the first year, the team collected relevant statistics, and carried out documentary analysis of asylum determinations, case law, migration policy papers, and reports at the European (EU and CoE) and national (Germany, Italy and UK) levels. The team also designed the project website (http://www.sogica.org/) available in German and Italian as well.
In the second year, the team carried out fieldwork in the countries under analysis and at European level, including: 143 semi-structured interviews, 16 focus groups, 24 non-participant contextual observations of court hearings, two online surveys, and Freedom of Information requests lodged in all three country case studies.
In the third year of the project, the team treated all the data and, on the basis of the themes identified through the data coding, started drafting the book and identified five themes for discrete journal articles on specific issues not to be covered by the book.
In the fourth year, the drafting of the book was concluded and it was submitted to the publisher, to be published in 2021. The survey report was produced and published, offering important quantitative data, and the remaining five journal articles were also drafted and submitted to peer-review. The project’s main recommendations were published in July 2020 and addressed and tailored to domestic and EU authorities. The final conference of the project took place in July 2020 and included 3 keynote speeches (the previous and current UN Independent Experts on protection against violence and discrimination based on SOGI, and a representative of ILGA-Europe), 23 panels, 2 workshops, 1 performance, more than 80 speakers and more than 600 participants. This was complemented by a policy roundtable held in September 2020, gathering participants from all country case studies and European organisations. Moreover, the team procured a SOGICA project team video, as well as German, Italian and UK country case study videos that feature some of our participants. Finally, the team also developed a section on Country Information on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity within the website’s Useful Links page.
Throughout the project’s life, the team held 4 annual advisory board meetings: in 2017 in Brighton, in 2018 in Forlì, in 2019 in Frankfurt am Main and in 2020 online. Advisory Board members were refugees, legal practitioners, NGO staff, and academics.
Our findings indicate that SOGI asylum claims are still often treated unfairly across Europe. Although there have been some improvements throughout the years and in several countries as well as at EU level, there are still serious issues regarding decision-making based on stereotypes, refusals and returns based on the expectation of concealment, intrusive and demeaning lines of questioning, and low quality standards of interpretation. Reception conditions for these asylum claimants still do not sufficiently address their needs, with instances of discrimination and violence often occurring. SOGI refugees and asylum claimants also struggle considerably in accessing health services, the labour market and educational provision, having to manage too many (often insurmountable) hurdles. All in all, it is a very worrying scenario that requires urgent action by policy-makers and state authorities.
Throughout the project, the SOGICA team members produced more than 30 outputs relevant to the project’s themes, from more traditional academic publications such as books, book chapters and journal articles, to more policy-oriented and impact-prone products such as survey reports and policy recommendations. The team was also actively engaged in public speaking, having delivered more than 50 talks on topics related to SOGICA. We have not only presented at a range of academic conferences, but also at NGO and Third Sector events to enhance the impact of our research and support the work of activists and policy-makers.
The team has also responded positively to media requests and given interviews to a range of media outlets, leading to more than 20 pieces. These have come out with highly reputable outlets, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera, thus contributing to greater awareness of SOGI asylum issues in public debates on migration and asylum. Finally, the team developed a strong social media presence through Twitter (@SOGICA1) and Facebook (@SOGICAProject).
The project has advanced the field beyond the state of art in three particular ways: methodologically, theoretically and policy-wise.
Methodologically, the project has been innovative to the extent that it combined methodologies that so far have been used only separately or partially in other research into the subject matter of SOGI asylum. The mixed research methods adopted allowed us to produce very much needed qualitative and quantitative data. By using the described methodology, the SOGICA project has offered a more comprehensive and in-depth analysis of these matters in Europe than any previous study. The fieldwork involved almost 500 participants, amongst which more than 200 SOGI asylum claimants and refugees.
From a theoretical perspective, the analysis of the data collected was informed by human rights, feminist, queer and intersectional approaches. Giving voice to asylum claimants who have always been invisible and combining such strong empirical and theoretical elements makes SOGICA a very innovative project with valuable lessons for European policy-makers.
From a policy-making perspective, our findings reflect the range of issues that still cause difficulties for SOGI asylum claimants in Europe, as well as some positive practices that are worth replicating across Europe. The academic, NGO, policy-making and refugee communities now have at their disposal a solid body of empirically and theoretically-informed analysis and policy recommendations that was not available until now.
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