A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has claimed that LGBT asylum seekers are experiencing abuse in Spain’s North African enclave. HRW has urged that these asylum seekers be transferred to mainland Spain.
The report, which was released on Thursday, featured testimonies of gay men housed in a migrant center in Ceuta. The report claims these migrants face abuse from the other residents of the camp as well as the indifference of local authorities.
"LGBT asylum seekers who fled homophobic harassment and intimidation at home face similar abuse in Ceuta, both at the immigration center and on the street," Judith Sunderland, the associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
One asylum seeker HRW met with, a 29-year old Moroccan named Ahmed (a pseudonym), described how he fled his country due to threats from his family and police because of his sexual orientation. He now lives in the Temporary Stay Center for Immigrants in Ceuta (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Immigrantes, CETI).
"They (the other CETI residents) tell me if they see me outside the center they'll beat me. They come after me and I run. One time, In November or December they hit me," Ahmed said. He had been living in the CETI center since mid-October 2016 and hopes for a better life.
"I want to survive, I want a future. I don't want to always think that I'm going to be beaten up…. I can't in Morocco and I can't here because Ceuta is like Morocco," he said.
All migrants who enter Ceuta irregularly are funneled into the CETI center, which can hold a maximum of 512 people. Right now there are around 70 to 80 asylum seekers in the center with 10 of them having applied for asylum due to discrimination for LGBT reasons.
Migrants not applying for asylum may stay at the center for four to five months where they are then given an expulsion order to mainland Spain. Once in mainland Spain, they are put into a detention center to be deported or taken care of in NGO shelters.
Asylum seekers, like Ahmed, are not allowed to transfer from the CETI center to the mainland. They have to wait for their asylum requests to be accepted or rejected, which can take over a year to process.
Protection for LGBT asylum seekers
LGBT asylum seekers, facing persecution in their home country due to their sexuality, may now face the same discrimination and indifference in their country of asylum. The report claims that reception centers like the one in Ceuta need to do more to protect LGBT asylum seekers.
HRW identified ways to accommodate LGBT asylum seekers such as providing "single rooms, transfers to smaller centers, specific training for staff and facilitating access to LGBT organizations and support networks."
Ceuta as a gateway to Europe
The Spanish enclave of Ceuta is seen by asylum seekers as a way to access Europe. Migrants come from all over Africa to the enclave, often trying to scale the six-meter-tall fence that separates the enclave from Morocco. Others try to swim to enter Ceuta by swimming there from a nearby Moroccan beach.
Spain's treatment of asylum seekers who try to enter the enclave has often been criticized, most notably when Spanish police fired rubber bullets and spraying the migrants with tear gas. Since then, Spanish authorities have banned the practice of using bullets to ward off migrants and refugees from the enclave.
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