Trans-woman activist gets last-minute reprieve

Authorities reopen asylum case after appeal from support group

Fernanda Milán said that an eleventh-hour decision by Flygtningenævnet, the government’s refugee board, to revisit her application for asylum may have saved her life.

“The thing I was most afraid of was that I would be killed if I was sent back to Guatemala,” Milán told Politiken newspaper. “I was fearful that I would be attacked and tortured.”

Seventeen transsexuals were killed in Guatemala in the first five months of this year, according to human rights organisations.

Milán was due to be flown out of Denmark on Monday. Last Friday, Søren Lauersen from LGBT Denmark sent a letter to Flygtningenævnet containing evidence from the human rights organisation Oasis that Milán’s life could be in danger if she was sent back. Milán worked for Oasis while she was in Guatemala. A police officer holding his gun to her head and threatening to kill her if she did not stop working for transgender rights was the incident that caused Milán to flee her home country.

T-Refugee, an organisation which supports Milán and other transgender asylum-seekers, said that by delaying the deportation, Danish authorities have recognised that Milán’s life is in danger if she is returned to Guatemala.

"When the authorities react like this, it must mean that even those that initially denied Fernanda asylum now see a reason to act cautiously and not risk her life,” Stine Larsen from T-Refugee said in a press release. “We strongly welcome this decision because we absolutely believe that the chances that she would be safe in Guatemala are non-existent.”

Emil Cronjäger from T-Refugee called the reopening of the case a “small victory” but expressed frustration that Milán was not simply granted immediate asylum.

Milán said that her life as a refugee in Denmark has been “incredibly hard” and that she hopes her case is resolved soon.

“I am only 26-years-old, but I have experienced more brutality, humiliation and injustice than any human being should experience in a lifetime," she told Politiken.

Milán contacted LGBT Denmark after fleeing Guatemala. The group supported her asylum request.

While waiting for her case to be heard, Milán was raped in Sandholm Asylum Centre, a facility operated by the Danish Red Cross. After the attack at Sandholm, Milan fled the centre and was trafficked into prostitution for two years. Police discovered her during a raid on a brothel in Jutland.

More than 200 people attended a rally last month protesting the decision to deport Milán after her initial application for asylum was rejected.