PUT and family reunification – for the sake of LGBTQI people

All parties who claim that they support LGBTQI people's rights must put their words into action when decisions about Sweden's migration policy are made. We demand that permanent residence permits become the norm and that the discrimination against LGBTQI people in matters of family reunification is stopped.

July 29 2020

Pride is being celebrated all around Sweden, and now the starting signal for Stockholm Pride has sounded. Even though things are a bit different this year, we continue to celebrate important victories at the same time as we see how the situation for the most vulnerable people of our community – asylum-seeking LGBTQI people – is at risk of deteriorating. Soon the results of the negotiations about the future migration policy will be presented. Many of the suggestions discussed by the parliamentary migration committee would, if realised, be a terrible blow to people in flight in general, and to LGBTQI people in particular. LGBTQI people from all over the world flee to Sweden to escape harassment and violence. Same-sex relationships are criminalised in over 70 countries. In some countries, LGBTQI people are at risk of being sentenced to death.

Ever since the 70’s, RFSL has conducted extensive international work for LGBTQI people’s human rights. RFSL works with LGBTQI issues within the UN, and are currently cooperating with 50 sister-organisations who work under difficult circumstances in different parts of the world. On a daily basis, we are given accounts of the global situation of LGBTQI people. The suggestions that the committee are discussing will hit vulnerable groups, such as LGBTQI people who flee their countries of origin, hardest. To only offer temporary instead of permanent residence permits would have serious health implications and hamper trauma treatment and establishment in society.

The introduction of temporary residence permits as a rule presupposes that people are fleeing from a situation which is temporary. That is not the reality in LGBTQI cases. Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are seldom temporary traits, and the persecution of LGBTQI people won’t change within a short period of time. The committee also suggests a more restrictive view on family reunification. RFSL views with concern the implications of introducing legislation that only allows for family reunification in families that qualify as “nuclear families”. LGBTQI people cannot always prove that they have been spouses or lived together in their country of origin since their relationships may have been punishable by law.

RFSL is also concerned about how the committee ignores important recommendations made by the UNHCR to Sweden. UNHCR believes that legal, economic and practical obstacles for family reunification should be removed and that asylum-seekers should be granted a secure and stable residence status. We feel ashamed and sad that our leaders are considering to discard humane values in the shaping of our future asylum and migration policy. The consequence of introducing such a policy is that more people will die, either on a difficult escape route or in a country where they are being persecuted. We can never accept that.

RFSL demands: 
– that Sweden follows UNHCR’s recommendation in the development of the future migration policy,
– that Sweden’s migration policy protects the most vulnerable groups, including LGBTQI people,
– that civil society’s knowledge about the consequences of restrictive migration policies is taken into consideration,
– that permanent residence permits become the norm, – that Sweden removes legal, economic and practical obstacles for family reunification, and
– that LGBTQI people should not be discriminated against in the issue of family reunification.

To participate in Pride requires commitment. You can’t just wave a rainbow flag. All political parties who claim to guard LGBTQI people’s rights also have a responsibility to stand up for the LGBTQI people who are forced to flee. 

Opinion article published in Expressen July 29 2020

Deidre Palacios, national president of RFSL
Frank Berglund, vice national president of RFSL
Nadja Aria-Garystone, president of RFSL Göteborg
Jacob Tardell, president of RFSL Stockholm
Ida Curtsdotter, president of RFSL Kalmar
Joakim Isaksson Markström, president of RFSL Luleå och norra Norrbotten
Maria Edin, president of RFSL Västernorrland
Alex Lithander, president of RFSL Gotland
Emelie Östbring, president of RFSL Helsingborg
Joakim Johansson, president of RFSL Norrköping
Marcus Pettersson, president of RFSL Skaraborg
Louise Arvidsson, president of RFSL Kristianstad
Kenan Jozwiak, president of RFSL Malmö
Koko Molande, president of RFSL Umeå
Edy Magnusson, president of RFSL Halland
Gunilla Albert, president of RFSL Västmanland
Nina Klingberg, president of RFSL Kronoberg
Stina Nilss, president of RFSL Sjuhärad
Mikael Selg, president of RFSL Dalarna
Robin Nordh, president of RFSL Motala
Arvin Hembäck, president of RFSL Gävleborg
Hanna Mischa Daun, president of RFSL Linköping