A gay refugee from Venezuela says the Icelandic government has not granted her asylum despite the fact that being LGBTQ+ in her home country very often leads to political persecution.
Beatriz Moreno came to Iceland last summer with her wife, and they applied for asylum because of the turbulent situation in Venezuela, reports Vísir. The economy in Venezuela is in shambles due to hyperinflation and the political scene is in disarray. A civil war has also broken out between the army, which has been accused of various human rights violations, and militant groups.
According to figures from the United Nations, more than seven million people have fled Venezuela in recent years, and more than 950,000 have applied for asylum around the world.
“The Immigration Service claims that the situation in Venezuela is improving. We Venezuelans, not just me but Venezuelans all over the world, are fighting to keep spreading the word that Venezuela is still in a bad place. In our minds, the country is still very dangerous,” says Beatriz.
Sexuality not enough to get asylum
Beatriz is a trained journalist but has not been able to work as one because of political instability.
“Right now, in Venezuela, if you protest what is being done, the government can persecute you. It’s hard to get an education, it’s hard to get a decent wage and it’s hard to be gay because it’s basically illegal to be gay in Venezuela,” she says.
While Venezuelan law does not prohibit being gay, there are countless examples of LGBTQ+ people being subjected to political persecution after attending solidarity meetings and criticising the government.
Beatriz says she and her wife came to Iceland because they thought they could get asylum here. All applicants from Venezuela received international protection here in 2019. However, after going through the process that accompanies such an application, they were rejected. The Icelandic Immigration Service’s assessment was that due to the improving situation in Venezuela, they did not need asylum here. The couple’s sexuality would not be enough to grant them asylum.
“Being a woman with a female partner, we think Iceland is a good country where we can start a family and where we can see our children grow up. Here I believe that women are valued. Since even the men’s wages are comparable to the women’s wages, I think this is a good country,” says Beatriz.
“The Immigration Service did not question my sexuality, but in the interview I told them why I left. One of the reasons is that it is basically illegal to be gay in Venezuela; it has consequences for one’s life, one is persecuted,” she says. “They know that I came here with a partner, that I am married, but they dispute it. They know that one of the reasons I left is because of my homosexuality.”
“I’m not lying”
The Immigration Service rejected their application, but they have appealed the decision because they cannot return home.
“I would be afraid to return because I know I could not have a normal life with my partner, could not have a normal family life or a normal job. I could not have a normal life like an Icelander can have in Iceland,” Beatriz says
Deputy State Prosecutor Helgi Magnús Gunnarsson’s comments about gay asylum seekers on social media last week came as a shock to her. She thanks Samtökin ’78, the National Queer Association, for the support the couple received right from the start.
“It is not easy to talk about this weekend. It is difficult, in my position, to talk about what the Deputy State Attorney said. It’s hard to talk about because I don’t want to be afraid to speak up or have an opinion. In any case, I think that everyone should have the right to express themselves. But I am in no position to dispute what he said. That is the role of those who work within the Ministry of Justice,” says Beatriz.
“I hope that he and those who are in charge of the Immigration Office, that this is not what they generally think about LGBTQ+ people. I hope this is not the case. I hope that everything goes well and that whoever handles these matters sees that we are not lying. I’m not lying and I don’t want to take a test to prove I’m gay. But it’s hard to talk about this,” she says.
“I hope he thinks well of asylum seekers and queer people and that he and others are ready to open the door for us,” Beatriz says.
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