Guatemalan woman Fernanda Milán has become the first person to be granted asylum in Denmark based on her transgender status.
Milán sought refuge in Denmark on the basis that she would face severe persecution for her gender identity in Guatemala. While living in Guatemala, she says she was attacked and threatened by police because she was an outspoken campaigner for transgender rights.
After her original request for asylum was refused last fall by Flygtningenævenet, the refugee appeals board, Milán was set to be deported. Her case was re-opened for appeal after LGBT Denmark provided documentation that her life would be in danger if she returned to Guatemala.
“I am very grateful to all the people who have helped me to fight, because in the end I could not have done it on my own,” Milán said in a press release from the T-Refugee Project.
But while the T-Refugee Project is pleased with the outcome, they still expressed frustration that Milán was required to undergo lengthy proceedings.
“We are very relieved that our struggle, together with Fernanda, ended in her being granted asylum,” Stine Larsen, a spokesperson for the T-Refugee Project, said. “But it has been a soul-destroying asylum process with an initial refusal which was then reversed just three days before her scheduled departure on September 17.”
Following a request from Søren Laursen of the T-Refugee Project, Flygtningenævenet has now announced that it will consider persecution on grounds of gender identity and sexuality relevant factors in asylum cases.
Larsen said that Milán’s case brings necessary attention to other asylum cases for transgender people.
“There have only been a few trans cases before the refugee board the last twenty years, and they were all rejected,” Laursen said. “From what we know of them, I think there is reason to question those decisions. It is therefore very satisfying that there is now a case that has received a thorough examination that has been successful.”
Larsen hopes that Milán’s case will forge new policies to permanently benefit those seeking asylum for gender and sexuality issues.
“She has been fighting for her own survival, but she has also fought for transgender seekers who will come after her,” Larsen said. “We hope Fernanda’s case means it will be easier for future transgender asylum seekers.”
UNHCR, the UN refugee commission, recommends that member states consider gender identity criteria for asylum on the grounds that it can be a cause for persecution. Denmark adopted these recommendations in September 2012.
The decision on Milán’s case comes one week after Flygtningenævenet granted asylum to a gay Afghan man because of his sexuality.