Norway to prioritize LGBTQ refugees in new scheme
Norway is set to prioritize LGBTQ refugees, the first time this has happened, for those transferring from one asylum country to another for permanent resettlement.
This three-year scheme was introduced in coordination with the United Nations (UN) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under previous guidelines, vulnerable women and children were first priority.
Norway’s move to protect LGBT refugees
The Norwegian federal government said this move is their way to support LGBTQ rights. They also recognize that persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation could be a reason for moving.
“Unfortunately, in many countries, you are not free to love who you want,” said Grunde Kreek Almeland, State Secretary for Integration Affairs in the Ministry of Education.
Almeland added: “In nearly 70 countries, homosexuality is criminal and those who violate gender and sexuality norms may be subject to persecution and discrimination in their home country.”
“We are now changing the guidelines for the work of transfer refugees so that persons who are queer should be given priority,” Almeland said.
For this year, Norway was a flexible “floating quota” to get 3,000 transfer refugees each year. This means if there are fewer refugees in a year, more can be accepted in the next years.
Guidelines in transferring LGBTQ refugees
The spread of COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international settlement of asylum seekers around the world.
While there was a temporary halt in refugee resettlement, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UHNCR) and the United Nations International Organisation for Migration hope to resume global operations soon.
The new scheme applies to transfer refugees, or individuals who have been registered by the UNHCR transferring from one asylum country to another for permanent resettlement.
Prior to this, the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Norway had hit record lows due to the pandemic. Norway has been under recent pressure to take in more refugees from camps in Southern Europe.
During the refugee influx in 2015, more than 170 a day crossed the border in Northern Norway. Norwegian borders, especially in the southern portions, were tightened in response to refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.
Norway’s stance on global LGBTQ rights
An editorial by the newspaper Aftenposten said the new policy sends “an important and correct signal from Norwegian authorities that persecution of these groups must be taken seriously.”
The newspaper also said that “sexuality is a fundamental human right.”
ILGA-Europe ranked Norway in their 2020 annual report as fifth in the European continent in supporting LGBTQ human rights, including an 84 percent rating on asylum issues.
In 2012, Norway reformed its asylum policy following a Supreme Court ruling that stated any potential LGBTQ asylum seekers don’t have to be living in the closet in their home country to be considered for resettlement.