LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

ILGA-Europe welcomes the adoption of a groundbreaking EU asylum directive covering both sexual orientation and gender identity

Today the European Parliament adopted a revised version of the asylum directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection and the content of the protection granted. This directive recognises gender identity for the first time as grounds on which individuals can claim asylum in the EU. Moreover, this updates the concept of gender reassignment that was referred to by European law from a process to a stand alone concept.

Today’s vote at the European Parliament is a final step towards the adoption of this directive and a validation of an agreement between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament in their co-decision process on this directive.

The directive defines who can claim asylum in the EU and on the basis of which grounds. Persecutions because of sexual orientation were already recognised among the reasons on the basis of which is it possible to claim asylum in the EU. Now, persecutions on the ground of gender identity are equally recognised.

The adoption of the directive was part of a revision of existing EU asylum directives and for the first time since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, the European Parliament had a co-decision role along the Council of the European Union.

ILGA-Europe and its member organisations were some of the driving forces behind the European Parliament on the necessary updates. We managed to persuade EU Member States to actively and vocally support them and thus created a coalition of supportive Member States.

ILGA-Europe particularly acknowledges and pays tribute to Jean Lambert, the Member of the European Parliament from the UK Green Party, who was a rapporteur on this directive and who conducted negotiations with the European Council and was instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of gender identity in the adopted directive.

The adoption of this directive is a major development in EU asylum law as persecution on the grounds of gender identity is recognised as a legitimate reason for claiming asylum in the EU and it is the fist EU law using correct terminology in relation to gender identity. The directive is binding to 24 EU Member States (Denmark, Ireland and the UK have opted out from the implementation of this directive).

At the same time, ILGA-Europe regrets that the process of revising the EU asylum directive did not allow for some elements to be addressed and improved and as a result the definition of family members of asylum seekers and also some wording related to sexual orientation remains unclear.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:

“We sincerely welcome this groundbreaking development. This is the very first time gender identity is acknowledged and explicitly referred to in the EU legislation.

ILGA-Europe will take an active part in the further process of the EU asylum directives revision to ensure that the other asylum directives (procedure and reception conditions) are approved in the current edition including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Our goal remains to have fully sensitive EU’s Common European Asylum System which reflects the needs of individual seeking asylum who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. As a reminder, there are still 76 countries in the world which criminalise sexual acts between consenting and adult males and 5 of these countries even impose death penalty for such acts. Trans people in many countries face even worth conditions”.

Text of the adopted directive.