Researcher Deniz Akin says that the authorities follow society’s norms in their treatment of queer asylum seekers: They prefer stories about love and stigmatisation rather than sex. Akin calls for more flexibility. This is UDI’s reply.
“We try to make every asylum seeker comfortable in the interview situation and facilitate in order to let them speak freely about their grounds for seeking protection,” says acting area manager Nina Ø. Skaugvolldal at UDI. According to their experience, many are well prepared for their interview.
Since sexual orientation may be associated with shame and taboo for many people, Skaugvolldal says that they also base their interviews on the available information on the situation for sexual minorities in the applicant’s country of origin.
“At the same time, we’re aware that people are different and we try to accommodate that.”
According to UDI, it is correct that the caseworkers don’t focus on the applicant’s sex life. But it’s not to the applicant’s disadvantage if he or she decides to bring it up.
“We focus on the applicants’ love relationships in the interviews, without bringing up their sex life. If a person decides to tell us about his or her sexual practice this in itself is not regarded as ‘a sign that the person is lying’. We make an overall assessment of the applicant’s testimony,” says Skaugvolldal.
UDI disagrees with Akin’s view that the caseworkers sometimes reject a story as improbable even before sexual orientation is brought up.
“This is not in agreement with our view on the matter,” says Skaugvolldal.
According to her, the caseworkers make an overall assessment of the applicants’ testimony, in which several aspects are taken into consideration.
“The evaluation is twofold. We assess the information about problems and abuse given by the applicant, and we assess their sexual orientation. To simplify, this may mean that we don’t necessarily base our decision on what the applicant says about experiences and fear in cases of return, but that we still conclude that the applicant belongs to a sexual minority and may be granted protection on this basis.”
Based on research
According to Skaugvolldal, UDI’s employees do their utmost to take the applicants’ diversity into consideration, and they are aware that people’s ability to convey the background for their application differ.
“For instance, the caseworkers learn various techniques on how to gather information during the interview – an approach which is based on research. The same approach is used in encounters with other particularly vulnerable people, such as in judicial examinations of children.”
As regards the already mentioned report from 2015, Skaugvolldal can confirm that UDI has worked and is still actively working with the problems addressed there.
“These cases are complex, and we therefore put in a lot of resources on interview techniques, interview strategies, and legal considerations in order to improve. We’re also conscious of methods and tools for how to weigh various aspects in an assessment of evidence.”