Asylum centres step up anti-bullying measures to protect LGBT refugees

Accommodation for refugees at Ter Apel in Drenthe.
Photo: Justice ministry

Refugee centres are to recruit specialist counsellors for LGBT residents in response to concerns about homophobic bullying.

Some asylum seekers’ centres (AZCs) have introduced separate wings to house vulnerable residents, despite the cabinet’s opposition to the idea, the Volkskrant reported. Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff has said the government should focus its efforts on dealing with offenders rather than isolating the victims.

The refugee accommodation service COA said that specialist staff were being trained to act as confidants for gay, lesbian and transgender residents and would start work from 1 August.

‘Discrimination, aggression and violence are not tolerated at our facilities,’ a spokesman for the COA told the newspaper, before adding: ‘At some centres the infrastructure allows members of vulnerable groups to be accommodated together. There are centres with a separate wing for women and LGBT residents can live in adjacent rooms.’ LGBT wings have been introduced in Amsterdam, Almere and Zeist.

Knife in bed

The gay rights group COC said it had received 32 reports of serious threats against LGBT rsidents since last October. ‘Compared to Heumensoord, where LGBT people were so afraid that they slept with a knife in bed, the wings for vulnerable people are an improvement,’ said spokesman Philip Tijsma. ‘But there is still a lot to be done.’

Sandro Kortekaas, spokesman for LGBT Asylum Support, said intimidation often goes unreported because victims are afraid to come forward. ‘Because of their experiences LGBT refugees have little trust in the authorities,’ he said.

Dijkhoff told Parliament in the spring that all residents should be able to take their concerns to any member of staff, rather than hiring extra staff to handle LGBT residents’ concerns. But a majority of MPs are in favour of separate accommodation if it is needed to secure refugees’ safety.

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