Harbers: “Emphasis on the authentic story of LGBTs and converts”

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (IND) is set to change the way it assesses the credibility of LGBT asylum seekers and converts. It aims to gain a better understanding of their personal, authentic stories during interviews with them. As State Secretary, Mark Harbers, wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives today, LGBT cases will no longer focus on the awareness process or the level of self-acceptance. This shift in approach is Harbers' response to a motion in which the government has been asked to ascertain whether the assessment of this type of asylum application could be improved. Besides updating work instructions for both LGBTs and converts, the IND will also make additional investments in staff education and training, asylum decisions will explain how statements from third parties have been taken into consideration and the internal newsletter on the assessment of conversion cases will become a public work instruction.

State Secretary Harbers:

“Änyone who is being persecuted for reasons that are inextricably linked to their person must be given the protection that they deserve, regardless of whether this is based on the individual's ethnicity, religion, political views or sexual orientation. Having said that, it will only be possible to maintain support for asylum protection if it is offered only to those who really need it. Therefore it is essential that the IND properly assesses these cases. The assessment of cases involving conversion and sexual orientation is more complex as they involve inner aspects that are often impossible to ascertain on the basis of external characteristics or actions.”

Authentic story

In order to properly assess LGBT and conversion cases, IND interviewers and decision-makers will ask asylum seekers about their personal experiences and signification. This will make it easier for asylum seekers to tell their own authentic story. Similar to other asylum applications, the starting point for LGBT and conversion cases is that consideration must be given to the the asylum seeker's frame of reference (level of education, culture and stage of life, etc.). By no longer focusing on the awareness and self-acceptance processes in LGBT cases, the IND will be able to avoid proceeding too much on the basis of 'Western' standards and the starting point that all LGBTs will be able to tell a good story, supported by psychological grounds. The expectation is that an emphasis on the authentic story will make it possible to avoid the fraud committed when asylum seekers tell a ‘standard’ story that they hope will benefit their asylum application. Such misuse is unacceptable. With this in mind, the IND will also be able to supplement its careful assessment of an asylum application with a further investigation if contraindications for the original ground for asylum emerge after a permit has been granted.

Statements from third parties

Asylum applications from LGBTs and converts are regularly supported by statements from third parties, such as partners, witnesses and interest groups. The IND is already taking these statements into careful consideration when assessing asylum applications. However, its approach is not always clear to those concerned. To improve this situation, the IND will include in its work instructions pertaining to LGBTs and converts that asylum decisions must explain how statements made by third parties have been taken into account. For the sake of completeness, an addition will be made to the Aliens Act Implementation Guidelines (Vreemdelingencirculaire) stating that visual material can be used as part of the assessment of an asylum application. Examples are photos from the daily life of the foreign national. However, visual material with sexual overtones will not be accepted - in line with past policy.

The current changes follow from improvements already implemented in relation to the credibility assessment of asylum applications received from LGBTs and converts in recent years.