Last May, the Moscow Pride was banned again for the tenth year in a row, with violent arrests taking place. Everyone in the Netherlands knows that the Russian Federation is a homophobic country. COC Netherlands has asked the Dutch Immigration and Nationalization Service (IND) to treat gay asylum seekers with leniency. But if only this were true.
The IND has been sending asylum seekers from the Russian Federation back without any form of respect or consideration. Asylum seekers who have been subjected to humiliation, were beaten up an threatened, also by the police, and who have fled their home country.
At the moment, my partner and I are giving a young and talented gay Russian a “safe harbor,” as he does not only live in a homophobic detention center, but his maximum stay has also expired. Something that is not allowed in The Netherlands and is considered to be an illegal activity. On Thursday May 28th, the judge has given a negative advice on his asylum request. His call for help in a country that is perceived by the Russian queer movement as tolerant should be heard.
Some time ago, Evgenii Frank from Omsk paid a visit to COC Netherlands with regard to his asylum request in The Netherlands on the basis of his homosexuality and the many problems he had to deal with since childhood. In the beginning of May I met Mr. Frank via social media because of the programming of our gallery MooiMan. In this, we give a voice and tell the story of homophobia and human rights through art. These signals, but certainly those that were given out two years ago during President Putin’s visit to Amsterdam, did not go unnoticed in the Russian Federation.
COC Netherlands has only referred Evgenii Frank to the Dutch Council for Refugees (Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland). They never returned his call. The only thing COC Tilburg has been able to do for him is to arrange his transfer to another Refugee Center (Azielzoekerscentrum), from Gilze to Ter Apel, because of the homophobic atmosphere in the center in Gilze. For two weeks now and after several conversations, we are giving Evgennii a safe harbor in our house. I am deeply ashamed of all the organizations that would do nothing for him.
Just before his trial at the end of May, he penned his life story, which was then processed by his barrister. In this life story, he describes all his fears, his ever-growing phobia of going outside because of his under underlying fear of being seen as a gay man, the years of continuous bullying, and the panic that arose when his former class mates found out he was gay, the threatening calls and emails that followed, and lastly, being beaten up by cadets of the police academy in front of his own home. In this accumulation Evgenii clearly indicates that he cannot return home, as it will kill him.
In 2013, the Dutch GLBT community has made itself heard during President Putin’s visit to Amsterdam, with battle songs that were also heard in the Russian Federation. At the moment, there is no one standing up for Evgenii but us and his barrister. In the Russian Federation, the GLBT community - we are working with several Russians - sees the Netherlands as a free, tolerant country. And I understand that the IND has to rely on evidence. But to include evidence on the basis of homosexuality from a homophobic country is just hardly possible. The IND has to be aware of this, and I think this attitude is more than shameful.
We have contacted, among others, Vera Bergkamp (of the political party D66) and Boris Dittrich (Human Rights Watch), and both of them share our concerns. A debate about people fleeing their country because of their sexuality HAS to take place in the Netherlands. These asylum seekers should be treated with the same kind of respect that is shown to asylum seekers who flee their country on the basis of their beliefs, and are granted asylum in European countries almost automatically.