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Rainbow Welcome

Improving the receptionof LGBTQIA+ asylumseekers in Belgium



ga verder in het nederlands

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This tool was developed as part of the Rainbow Welcome project funded by the Equal Opportunities Unit of the FPS Justice and developed by the association POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ-PLS.It provides an understanding of the specific issues related to the situation of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and redirects readers to useful and relevant resources.

This tool is interactive!On each page, click to return to the home page.The presence of this on a page will prompt you to click on the yellow items or icons to access more information! The represent external resources that we invite you to consult for more information.

- Introduction - Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGI) - The impact of violence and discrimination - Legislation on SOGI - Asylum & Migration: current procedures - Persecution related to SOGI - Interculturality, religions, communities - Once in Belgium: the struggle continues... - Contacts

Table of Contents


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Migrating as a result of persecution based on one's sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGI) is a reality, and the discrimination does not stop upon arrival in the host country, where LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers often face other forms of vulnerabilities and violence.

Seeking international protection through asylum is one of the ways to protect and guarantee the rights of people when they are persecuted or their rights are violated. Thus, asylum based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (hereinafter referred to as SOGI) has gradually been officially recognized at international, European and national levels, although gaps and problems remain.


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In practice, however, it is clear that LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are marginalized and doubly discriminated against and abused, as they are at the intersection of several discriminatory factors, including ethnicity and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGI).

LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are discriminated against because they are refugees, because they belong to the LGBTQIA+ communities, and because they are LGBTQIA+ refugees (1 + 1 = 3). The reception and support of asylum seekers in Belgium must take these specific needs into account.

Intersectional discrimination…


1 + 1 = 3

…is the recognition that an individual can be affected by multiple discriminations and that these do not simply overlap, but can lead to new forms of injustices. 1 plus 1 is not simply 2, but 3.Intersectionality is a tool that makes it possible to account for social and societal realities that are all too often ignored. The intersectional perspective is therefore a framework which helps understand societal phenomena, and allows for the implementation of concrete actions to fight against structurally rooted violence and discrimination.

  • TEDWomen 2016, Kimberlé Crenshaw, “The urgency of intersectionality” : https://cutt.ly/LYZq75e
  • YWboston, 2017, What is intersectionality, and what does it have to do with me? : https://cutt.ly/SYZwiL0

LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are doubly discriminated against and abused, as they are at the intersection of several factors of discrimination, including ethnicity and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGI).

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGI)

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGI)

Contrary to popular belief, the LGBTQIA+ people do not make up one homogenous community. Each person, each story, each experience, each "letter" of the acronym is different. The Genderbread person helps us better understand what SOGI is all about.And "because words matter"…

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans* Queer Questionning Intersex Pansexual Asexual Aromantic Non-binary Gender fluid & more

It is also necessary to distinguish the specificities of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers. Therefore, a glossary has been developed in the framework of the Rainbow Welcome project:

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGI)

Transgender and intersex people are particularly exposed to violence as they accumulate several vulnerabilities and are particularly invisibilized.

In Belgium, Genres Pluriels is the main expert association on this issue.

In Flanders, there is also the Transgender Infopunt.


  • The book "Je suis qui? Je suis quoi?" by Sophie Nanteuil and Jean-Michel Billioud published by Casterman.
  • Genres Pluriels, "Transgender/plural identities - Reception, rights, health, youth, employment... All well informed", 2017 (modified in 2019).
  • Genres Pluriels, "Intersex Visibility. Basic information', 2017 (modified in 2020).
  • France Culture podcast (LSD); "Episode 1: Libertés, égalité, transidentités".
  • The association Tels Quels has published a list of LGBT films

The impact of violence and discrimination

The impact of violence and discrimination

Many LGBTQIA+ people are forced to leave their countries as a result of persecution, discrimination, and/or abuse because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression, but their difficulties do not stop at the border of their home country.

For many, the migration journey can be an equally difficult experience, marked by uncertainty, isolation and abuse. Some arrive in the destination country physically and psychologically exhausted, having to face yet another hurdle – the asylum process. This process can be particularly difficult for people seeking asylum on the basis of the SOGI, as it requires proof of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as of persecution in the country of origin.

In the meantime, the situation can be further exacerbated by the conditions in reception and/or accommodation centers... where discrimination and violence can take multiple forms.

To better understand migration, the Catholic University of Louvain has published a free MOOC entitled "Regards croisés sur les migrations"

The impact of violence and discrimination

In Belgium, discrimination based on sexual orientation is defined by Unia...

... while discrimination based on gender identity is defined by the Institute for Equality of Women and Men

In general, it should be noted that there is an Interfederal Action Plan (2018 - 2019)against discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons.

Especially for LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers who face violence in their country of origin, during their journey to Belgium, but also once they arrive (during the procedure of requesting international protection, in reception or accommodation centres, in the course of their socio-professional integration, etc.).

Although it is increasingly denounced, gender-based violence tends to be normalized...


The impact of violence and discrimination

A campaign that denounces the normalization of violence against women and girls

As mentioned previously, LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are at the intersection of several vulnerabilities, and the discrimination and violence they face are multiple.It is for example essential to take into account internalized homophobia.

The impact of violence and discrimination

What is meant by internalisation?

  • C’est comme ça, « Homophobie intériorisée », ici.
  • Rainbow-Project.org, « Internalised Homophobia », ici.
  • « L’auto-discrimination » : un obstacle supplémentaire dans la quête d’un emploi pour les jeunes issus de l’immigration, ici.

SOGI legislation

SOGI legislation

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation but not on the grounds of gender identity or expression. Nevertheless, the European Court of Justice interprets gender in an extensive way, and condemns all discrimination based on gender identity.These texts are fundamental and binding, so Belgian law must take them into account. Thus, no one can be discriminated against on the basis of his or her SOGI in Belgium.


To learn more about the law on gender identity, gender expression and sexual characteristics, Genres Pluriels has published a study, available in French For more information, consult the Institute for the Women and Men Equality Mais quelle est la situation ailleurs dans le monde ? À ce propos, ILGA World a publié des cartes sur l’orientation sexuelle dans le monde. Mais aussi, « Le Trans Legal Mapping Report est un projet de recherche d'ILGA World, détaillant l'impact des lois et politiques sur les personnes trans à travers le monde ».

Whom to contact?

Training and animationson LGBT issues

Awareness and training on Transidentity and Intersex

To report discrimination or hate speechbased on sexual orientation

To report discriminationbased on gender

Advocacy for LGBTQI+ people from MantiQitna (Middle East and North Africa)

Asylum & migration :the procedures in force

For more information, you can consult the website of the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil)

SOGI is a recognized ground on which the applicant can apply for international protection through asylum

The asylum procedure in Belgium is, as elsewhere, a complex process. In order to understand it, the General Commissariat for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA) has published several notes:

Asylum & migration : the procedures in force

On registration and reception

On the asylum procedure

Asylum & migration : the procedures in force

Indeed, the gender binary, the burden of proof in SOGI asylum claims, the complexity of the Dublin Regulation, the notion of safe countries of origin, etc. create a multitude of obstacles for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers - from the indication of a transgender person's preferred name on identity documents, to the layout of reception and integration structures (e.g. shower rooms, toilets, etc.). There is a need to be more responsive to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ public.

The specific difficulties LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers may face are also presented in the study « Improving the reception of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers in Belgium »

For a collection of “Good practices related to LGBTI asylum applicants in Europe”, please consult ILGA-Europe

The SOGICA project provides more information on the topic...

SOGI-related persecution


During the hearing, LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers must prove their SOGI to the Belgian authorities. This is problematic because it carries the risk that their story has to fit the ideas and stereotypes of those taking their statement in order to be accepted.

Moreover, the questions asked at the hearing are sometimes personal,and the interpretation of the CGRA agents can be subjective...

... although it should be noted that some CGRA workers have recently beentrained on LGBTQIA+ issues.

Proof and justification

Eurocentric view of SOGI.

To learn more, CIRE published an article in 2016 : "Réfugiés et homosexualité : les affinités sélectives".

The notion of safety

The notion of safe countries of origin for LGBTQIA+ people is problematic. Some countries are officially considered safe because SOGI is not penalized and/or criminalized by law, although in practice it is socially and/or culturally prohibited to witness SOGI that differs from the country's norms.A point highlighted by EuroMed in 2016.

What is a safe country of origin according to Belgium ?

Interculturality,religions, communities

A person may apply for international protection based on SOGI because they are fleeing discrimination and violence in their home country. Upon arrival at a reception center in Europe, they often find themselves next to nationals of the very country they fled and are likely to face the same types of violence.Practice shows that abusers of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are often of the same origin. While grouping asylum seekers by origin has some benefits (interpretation, mutual support, etc.), it is a potential source of tension and discrimination for LGBTQIA+ applicants for international protection.

National and religious communities can be sources of tensions and violence.

Interculturality, religions, communities


In this regard, Awsa published a booklet on sexual diversity in the Arab world and the situation of LGBTQIA+ persons

As part of the European project Equal(c)ity, coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM),

The term “safe space” refers to a physical space without hostility that allows usually marginalized groups to dialogue freely.

The need for safe spaces

Interculturalité, religions, communautés

In Wallonia

In Brussels

In Flanders

Umbrella organizations are an essential resource for talking about one's SOGI, and finding a listening earand support. These organizations guarantee referrals to legal, social, psychological or medical assistanceand to self-help and leisure associations :

RainbowHouse, in collaboration with Equal.Brussels, is developing a kit to set up safe spaces for LGBTQI+ people.

Once in Belgium: the struggle continues...

Once in Belgium: the struggle continues...

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has developed a handbook to help LGBTQIA+ refugees integrate.

The experiences that drive people to flee their home countries and the difficulties they encounter along the way are serious, and it is important to keep in mind that discrimination against them does not stop when they arrive in Belgium.

Family reunification

To better understand family reunification,the Federal Migration Centre (MYRIA)is an essential resource

The commissioner.brussels website is another relevant source of information

For more, take a look at the following videos on the family reunification procedure published by the UNHCR

Once in Belgium: the struggle continues...

SOGI implies different needs in terms of healthcare as underlined by the Fédération Laïque des Centres de Planning familiaux (FLCPF) which moreover launched the Sex and Co project that can be followed on their social networks :

Access to health care for LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers is another central issue since the specific needs of this particular group have to be taken into account.

Learn more

Access to health care

Once in Belgium: the struggle continues...

For more information and referrals,there is the Centre de Planning Familial – Plan F.

Furthermore, there are tools available as those developed by CERDA in Québec ...or by the French association Adheos. Rapports et études :

  • Doctors of the World, « Migration and Health: Social Determinants and Migrant Healths ».
  • Migration Policy Institute, 2018,« Life After Trauma: The Mental-Health Needs of Asylum Seekers in Europe ».



Once in Belgium: the struggle continues...

LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to homophobic, lesbophobic and transphobic behaviour, racism, xenophobia, violence and hate in reception and accommodation centres in Belgium. There are obviously differences between centres, but experience shows that the reality and specific needs of LGBTQIA+ applicants are often invisible and the responses provided are weak.

It is important to think beyond the gender binary (especially in the infrastructures and projects put in place) and to pay particular attention to trans* and intersex issues. For this, it is interesting to call upon associations in the field (e.g. Genres Pluriels).

  • Fedasil
  • Croix Rouge
  • Rode Kruiz
  • Proving housing discrimination

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Bingo Audio's "Camille" podcast (in French),

  • « How to be a good ally to trans people »

« ... a person's gender identity and gender expression correspond to the prevailing social expectations based on the sex assigned to the person at birth ».

How to be a good ally ?

  • « How to be a good ally to non-binary people »

help to position oneself as an ally and generate thinking that goes beyondthe cisgender norm when...

Cisgenre : une personne dont l'identité de genre (masculin ou féminin) correspond au sexe avec lequel elle est née.


Who to contact?


Umbrella organisations (Cavaria, Arc-en-ciel Wallonie and the Rainbow House) do an incredible job listening to and accompanying LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers: Cavaria in Flanders (via the Safe Havens project which has now ended) or Arc-en-ciel Wallonie (via the social services of the provincial Arc-en-Ciel houses such as the one in Verviers or Luxembourg).Some specialized associations such as Merhaba or Why me are also active in this area.

  • In Brussels, the Rainbow House
  • In Wallonia :
    • https://www.arcenciel-wallonie.be/nos-associations
    • https://www.arcenciel-wallonie.be/maisons-arc-en-ciel
  • In Flanders
  • Le Refuge Bruxelles
  • MAC Luxembourg
  • The BALIR project of Arc-en-Ciel Wallonie
  • Le Queer Refugee Committe
  • Association Why Me
  • Association Merhaba

Who to contact?

Le Refuge Bruxelles/Het opvanghuis Brussel is an emergency shelter and support institution for young LGBTQIA+ people who are victims of family exclusion because of their SOGI. Until December 2021, the structure also offered support and accommodation to LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers who have encountered discrimination and/or serious violence in collective reception centres. It now transfers all the requests sent to it by LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers or migrants to the Centre d'accueil pour demandeur.se.s d'asile LGBTQIA+ (CADAL) which is to date the only structure in Belgium that provides regular and consistent accommodation (14 places) to LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers.

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We invite you to consult the study published in 2021 : Improving the reception of LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers in Belgium.Available in French and Dutch.

To go further

Thank you for your attention!


Contact and information: info@pourlasolidarite.euwww.pourlasolidarite.eu