The European Parliament on April 6 updated the European Union's system for examining asylum claims and now plans to categorize people fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity as a "special needs" group.
The move will help protect unsuccessful LGBT asylum-seekers from being fast-tracked for deportation and create a process for training national asylum officials on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other changes.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection," said MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, vice president of the Parliament's LGBT Intergroup. "This is a major step towards fully complying with our engagements under international asylum law."
Intergroup Vice President Rui Tavares added, "The European Parliament is showing that asylum rules need updating to reflect reality: 76 countries criminalize homosexual acts, and seven foresee the death penalty."
The rules will be officially amended once EU national governments examine them and agree to them.
Assistance: Bill Kelley