Common rules for RFSL’s Newcomers operations

The common rules for RFSL's Newcomers operations were first set by RFSL's national board in February 2019 and thereafter adopted by RFSL's congress in October 2019. The rules have been revised by RFSL's congress in October 2021.

1. Regulations

RFSL Newcomers is RFSL’s national operation for and with asylum-seekers, newly-arrived and undocumented LGBTQI people. The operation is organised by RFSL’s branches and is supported nationally. All members of RFSL Newcomers are members of RFSL, provided that they have signed up as members.

1.1 RFSL Newcomers is a place:

with social activities

A large part of the operation is organising social activities for the target group. Each group develops their own operation based on the needs of the target group and the branch’s own resources, anything from regular meetings to doing sports and language courses.

that is identity- and capacity strengthening

To empower the target group and facilitate establishment, the operation can provide information about how Swedish society works, make workplace visits, organise workshops or take part in cultural events. The target group should be given the opportunity to get engaged in activities, such as board work, work groups and Pride. The goal is to strengthen the LGBTQI identity and enable a confidence in oneself.

where the target group can receive humanitarian support

Volunteers can be a humanitarian support to the target group. The support can mean that you as a volunteer talk to the participants, help them read mail from authorities, are involved in the contact with authorities or during the different stages of the asylum process or when meeting the public counsel. The humanitarian support shouldn’t be confused with legal counselling offered by lawyers, where only authorised and practicing legal practitioners offer support or legal counselling in a specific asylum case. This is done not to risk the legal certainty of the individual. The humanitarian support shouldn’t be confused with therapeutic support that can be given by a counsellor or psychologist.  If the volunteers or branch don’t have this competency it’s very important to refer the individual to qualified legal advisors or therapeutic support at the national office or with another adequate actor.

where only trained lawyers offer legal support

Legal counselling should only be given by trained and practicing lawyers. Legal counselling means all forms of verbal or written tips and advice for seeking asylum and/or before the asylum investigation at the Migration Agency, appeals or oral hearings at the migration court. If you’re unsure of what you can say to the person or what constitutes legal counselling, contact RFSL’s national office (asylum lawyer) or refer the person to the lawyer. 

where only trained and practicing counsellors, therapists and psychologists provide qualified support

This is not to risk the health of the individual. If the volunteers or branch don’t have this competency, refer to a qualified professional.

where financial support to the target group in the form of food, trips etc. is given if there are resources

Volunteers and employees are not responsible for paying the target group’s private expenses. In order to safeguard the relationship between members and representatives of Newcomers and to not put members in an even more vulnerable position, financial transactions and, for example, buying coffee, food or gifts to members is not allowed.

where socially useful information about where and how the target group can seek accommodation is given

Volunteers aren’t responsible for arranging accommodation for the target group as the solution can become temporary or put the person in an even more vulnerable position. Instead, refer to other actors. If there’s a cooperation between the operation and another actor about accommodation, an agreement with clear regulations and guidelines regarding accommodation can be made. When producing such agreements, contact the national office for advice and support.

where members’ integrity is respected and handled with care

If communication tools are used in contact with members, it should be done in an integrity-assured way, for example through hidden copies of emails or via an encrypted platform. Information about individual participants is never shared with outsiders. An exception is that the representatives of the branch, upon the request of a member, can create membership certificates for them, where the information stated is name and time of membership in RFSL. The branch’s representatives can also help downloading or printing membership cards from the member pages.

2. Division of responsibility

2.1 The branches are responsible for:

– that the operation is run based on RFSL’s regulations and policies. 

– following and conveying the common rules and preconditions of the operation.

– that the one responsible for Newcomers’ activities, who is active within the operation as an employee or volunteer or is invited to come into contact with participants, should be educated and familiar with important regulations and steering documents.

– developing the operation’s contents with the branch’s board, the target group, volunteers and possible coordinators.

– handling incidents and events within the operation. Always document and inform

the president and the national office’s executive director, and take support from the national office as needed.

– referring the target group to trusted actors, for example in matters of legal support, accommodation and health-promoting efforts. The actors should be quality-assured if possible when it comes to, for example, LGBTQI competency and work according to ethical guidelines.

– making sure that the target group is part of all of the branch’s activities, by actively inviting them to activities, if possible include them in the board work and make the operation accessible through linguistic adaptation.

2.2 The federal board are responsible for:

– providing an overall framework for the operation and establishing good preconditions to run the operation locally.

– offering the branches situation-specific support, risk assessment and knowledge about how to apply for funds and run the operation.

– working to lessen the structural challenges within RFSL so that the target group can become more involved.

– offering national meeting places to strengthen capacity and promote the development of local Newcomers groups and the target group.

– working with political advocacy, both nationally and internationally, in issues concerning asylum-seekers, newly arrived and undocumented LGBTQI people’s situation and needs.

– working with political advocacy through capacity strengthening efforts such as up-skilling of the Migration Agency, training for asylum lawyers, networks with other organisations etc., and to cooperate with organisations that work with similar issues.

2.3 Everybody within Newcomers/volunteers are responsible for:

– following and conveying the operation’s common rules and preconditions.

– meeting the participants with understanding of the power relation there is between volunteer and member.

– not initiating sexual or romatic, or other personal relationships, where participants risks being exploited or where one in other ways are abusing a position of power.

– alerting a coordinator if something in the operation isn’t working.

If there are shortcomings

If you as a board member, coordinator, volunteer, employee or member find out that the common rules aren’t being followed, it’s important that you contact the person responsible for the operation. The branch’s board should be informed, by the president or other representative. You can also turn directly to the national office. If you don’t receive support from those responsible in your branch, you should turn directly to the president and the executive manager at the national office. You may use RFSL’s common whistle-blowing function.

In suspicion of crime

In suspicion of crime within the operation, the branch should make a police report.  The victim can, if they want, remain anonymous in the police report. The branch should notify the national office through the president and the executive director within 24 hours after the information has reached the branch. If the suspect is from within the organisation, they should immediately be excluded from their duties. The victim should immediately be offered counselling by a professional. The people affected should be informed and be given support in the form of counselling and guidance.  In case of a conviction, or if the circumstances require, exclude the employee/volunteer from the job.

3. About the steering document

3.1. Decided

The common rules for RFSL’s Newcomers operation were first established by the RFSL

federal board in February 2019 and thereafter by the RFSL congress October 18-20 2019. The rules have been revised by the RFSL congress October 23-31 2021.

3.2 Previous steering documents

The common rules do not replace a previous steering document.

3.3 Superordinate steering documents

RFSL’s statutes.

RFSL’s declaration of principles.

Common rules for people in a position of trust and activists.

3.4 Subordinate steering documents

Code of conduct for volunteers in Newcomers, suggestions for a document to be adopted locally. Produced during workshops with branches’ Newcomers groups and updated by the federal board after dialogue with the branches.

3.5 The steering document’s aim

The aim of this document is clarifying what RFSL’s Newcomers operation entails on a local level and what the division of responsibility looks like between branches, national office and the association board of trustees.

3.6 Affected organisations and people

The common rules apply to the national office and the branches, as well as to people involved in RFSL Newcomers. If a branch’s external operation wants to run a Newcomers operation in the same geographic area as a branch, the branch’s board needs to give its approval. That means, for example, that the planning of the operation and application for funds needs to be done through the branch’s board.

3.7 Delegations in the steering document

See division of responsibility under item 3.