Groningen – Proudly waving the colorful pride flag, representatives of the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Asylum support, alongside LGBT asylum seekers gathered on Tuesday (13/09/22) in Grote Markt, to protest against refugee discrimination in Ter Apel, the largest permanent reception center for refugees in the Netherlands.
The Groningen-based non-governmental organization called out the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) on what they claim as a ‘nightmare’, referring to the refugee housing system in Ter Apel.
Kortekaas explained, his organization has found evidence suggesting the COA has been keeping safe shelter access from LGBT asylum seekers, under the pretense that they are not ‘vulnerable enough’, which results in LGBT asylum seekers not getting safe shelters for weeks at a time despite there being LGBT units available in Ter Apel.
“We have information from our WhatsApp groups that there are still LGBT units empty, as opposed to what the COA claimed when they kept LGBT units from LGBT asylum seekers”, explained Kortekaas.
Representatives from the COA have yet to answer our request for a comment regarding this matter.
Threats at home
One of the asylum seekers present in the demonstration, Afaq, a 34-year old non-binary, queer person from Lebanon fled their home country to the Netherlands after facing abuse at home.
“I came to the Netherlands because I was about to get killed by my brother because of my sexuality and gender. I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t do anything”, they added, “My brother cut and beat me hard, two days before (I planned) to leave Lebanon. I went to the police, but I knew they wouldn’t help me because he’s family”.
Discriminated in Ter Apel
Afaq said that as soon as they arrived in the Netherlands, they were placed in Ter Apel to begin their asylum application process. However, they recounted how they did not feel safe in their temporary home in Ter Apel; they claim to have faced discrimination from other asylum seekers, because they were not placed in a LGBT unit.
Afaq said, “Without (access to) LGBT units, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t be mixed with other refugees, because they would discriminate us; I was discriminated for my tattoos and clothing from other asylum seekers, it didn’t feel like being in a new country”.
Waiting for answers
LGBT Asylum Support is still waiting for answers from the COA on their complaint regarding the alleged unused LGBT units in Ter Apel. The protest in Grote Markt was one of their efforts to get attention from the COA.
“We want full access for every asylum seeker. The COA should be ashamed for making exceptions within vulnerable groups”, said Kortekaas.