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The Netherlands tightens asylum rules over Ugandans ‘lying about sexuality’

The Dutch government is taking stringent measures to address the misuse of its asylum system by some Ugandans who falsely claim to be LGBTQ+ in order to secure refugee status.

Rigorous scrutiny of Ugandan asylum applications is leading to a drop in acceptance rate by the Dutch Government
  • Dutch government taking measures to address misuse of asylum system by some Ugandans claiming to be LGBTQ
  • Exploitation involves organized networks fabricating stories and selling 'ready-made' visa applications
  • Rigorous scrutiny of Ugandan asylum applications leading to a drop in acceptance rate from 50% in 2015 to 29% in 2018

This crackdown comes in response to increasing instances of fraud identified by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Department, complicating the asylum process for genuine applicants and straining the system.

Reports suggest that following the passing of the Antihomosexuality law last year, some heterosexual Ugandans are exploiting these provisions by falsely declaring themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This exploitation involves organised networks that train applicants to fabricate stories about their sexuality and even sell "ready-made package visa applications" for about 2,500 euros.

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According to a 2020 report by the Dutch immigration authorities, there has been a notable increase in the number of Ugandans entering the Netherlands on short-stay visas and subsequently applying for asylum under false pretences.

This has prompted more rigorous scrutiny of applications from Uganda compared to other countries, significantly impacting the acceptance rate of Ugandan asylum applications, which dropped from 50% in 2015 to just 29% in 2018.

A recent report by the Global Press Journal identified a Ugandan woman (names withheld) who has been living in the Netherlands for five years, having lied about her sexuality to gain asylum.

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This woman applied for a three-month tourist visa at the Dutch Embassy in Uganda to visit a friend, with her other plan already in motion. After three weeks, her visa was ready. On arriving in the Netherlands, she says she applied for refugee status as a lesbian.

"I cut my hair short and wore [baggy] men's clothes," she says. This, she believed, would prove that she was a lesbian. She believes that lying about her sexuality is the only guarantee of remaining in the Netherlands.

"I was given a house, health insurance and a monthly stipend of about 1.5 million Ugandan shillings [about 410 euros] by the Dutch government -- things I would never have gotten had I told them I was straight. In my entire life as an educated woman with a master's degree in business administration, I had never received such huge amounts of money on a monthly basis," she says.

If she gets her two daughters over to the Netherlands from Uganda after a successful asylum application, she adds, she will receive about 1,230 euros per month to care for her household.

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Sabine Jansen, a researcher at a human rights group, expressed concerns over the findings.

"The Dutch immigration department's assessments seem to be based on stereotypes, which unfairly discriminate against Ugandan LGBTI people," she said in an email interview. In 2022, two Ugandan men lost a court case when the Dutch immigration department withdrew their status, not believing their declared homosexual orientation.

The Dutch government is concerned that fraudulent claims not only compromise the integrity of the asylum process but also place an undue burden on genuine applicants who face real danger in their home countries.

The situation is exacerbated by corruption within the system, with reports of officials demanding bribes to expedite asylum processes.

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In light of these challenges, the Dutch government has heightened its vigilance and is taking steps to ensure that only those truly at risk receive protection. This includes more thorough interviews and verification processes to discern the authenticity of each applicant's claims.

Moses Makumbi, a commissioner with Uganda's Ministry of Ethics and Integrity, says people who exploit the law and immigration processes by faking their sexuality also ruin the country's credibility.

Nicholas Opio, a human rights lawyer, sees a bigger issue for his country. People who struggle economically want to leave the country so much that they will lie to do so. But in the process, everyone ends up stuck, he says. "People feel unsafe living in this country and would want to go to places that are safe."

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