A recent paper found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) refugees and asylum seekers from Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan reported they were often expected to be "flamboyant" and "outspoken" in their asylum interview, and that overall, asylum seekers were more successful if they could prove their 'gayness' by being involved in gay/queer activism in their country of origin, visiting gay bars, being members of lesbian and gay groups and attending gay pride marches.

University of Bristol anthropologist Dr. Mengia Tschalaer interviewed 15 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex refugees and talked to asylum lawyers and judges from Berlin and Cologne, as well as representatives of LGBTQI+ refugee counseling centers in Cologne, Munich, Heidelberg and Mannheim.

How to get a successful asylum determination

The vast majority of successful applicants were from middle to upper-class backgrounds, were assigned male at birth and had been actively involved in gay/queer activism in their country of origin.  Along with class and educational background, membership of LGBTQI+ organizations and access to local queer and gay refugee organizations in Germany were the most important factors in securing a successful asylum claim. 

"My research showed that most successful applicants were very well informed about what is expected from them at the asylum interview - which was for their asylum story to align with Western notions of queer/gay lifestyles, i.e frequent visits to gay discos and parties, public display of love and affection, wearing rainbow-coded clothing etc.," said Tschalaer.

Violation of EU law

Though it is against EU law, there were still incidences where asylum seekers were expected to answer questions about their sex life during their asylum interview and some interviewees stated they felt judged on their clothing, or how they acted in the interview. 

The paper also says that people who were more open about their sexuality and gender identity in their country of origin as well as the country of arrival were much more likely to be granted asylum, in part because they were more likely to seek out LGBTQI+ refugee organizations in Germany and receive support for the preparation of their asylum interview. 

However, people who were not 'out' at the time of their interview, or who found it difficult to speak about their sexuality due to fear of persecution, stigma or shame felt marginalized. Those who were married or had children in their countries of origin were not recognized or believed as being LGBTQI+ even if they were told to hide in their country of origin.

Play to German beliefs they are more tolerant

In most Muslim countries, where homosexuality is illegal so western countries are far more tolerant, but the analysis found that asylum applicants who made sure to portray Germany as more liberal, tolerant and free of discrimination - while portraying their Muslim countries of origin as homophobic and morally 'backwards' - were more likely to receive refugee protection.

There is concern expressed that the narratives and stereotypes perpetuated by the German asylum system may be a sign that immigration in Germany is not as tolerant as they want it to appear.