Netherlands to teach asylum seekers about LGBT rights

The Ministry of Education is launching an initiative in which all asylum seekers in all asylum centers in the Netherlands will be taught about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The same information material that is used in schools will also be used for this, Dutch newspaper Trouw reports.

"We must not be naive. Asylum seekers come from countries where women's rights are not always respected, where gay rights are not a given. We are making it clear that discrimination is not tolerated", Education Minister Jet Bussemaker said.

According to the Minister, schools have good experiences with the so-called Gay straight alliance method, in which students, teachers and directors provide information about LGBT people and create "a safe atmosphere in which students can be themselves" . Bussemaker wants this method to also be applied in the asylum centers. "This can be done in various ways: in classrooms, in discussion groups, each center will find an approach that works. We provide educational materials to promote social security, to start the difficult discussion and also to to bring gay asylum seekers in contact with the Dutch LGBT community."

Bussemaker wants gay interest group COC, which helps schools with LGBT information, to also be involved in providing information to asylum seekers. She is also approaching "Pink in blue, the organization for gay police officers. In the coming weeks the minister will hold a conference with the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA, aldermen and the COC, among others, to make arrangements.

This follows a number of incidents of LGBT asylum seekers being harassed in asylum centers, including a gay Iraqi couple being forced to flee the shelter in Apeldoorn after being attacked by fellow residents and reports of routine harassment in the Heumensoord asylum camp in Nijmegen. One gay asylum seeker in the center in Haarlem told Het Parool in December that he is forced to keep his sexual orientation secret in the center for fear of attacks.

Amsterdam decided to to shelter LGBT asylum seekers separately following a number of threats and incidents. The PvdA faction in Rotterdam asked mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb to do the same.