Gay rights group to open centre for LGBT asylum seekers in Berlin


A centre for 125 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers is set to open in Berlin in March. There are an estimated 3,500 LGBT asylum seekers in Berlin, many experiencing abuse in shelters where they are staying with other people seeking asylum, according to Schwulenberatung, a Berlin-based gay rights organisation which will run the centre.

"We have heard a lot of stories about discrimination and crimes against LGBT people in the last two years," Stephan Jakel, Schwulenberatung manager in charge of refugee affairs, told journalists on Friday. "They were frightened and scared after being beaten or spat on and one survived a murder attempt. We heard a lot of horrible stories," he said by phone from Berlin.

Germany has borne the brunt of Europe's biggest refugee influx since World War Two with over one million people arriving in the country in 2015, most of them fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Between August and December 2015, there were 95 cases of violence against LGBT people, mainly in accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD). They involved physical violence, sexual assaults, insults, threats and coercion.

Jakel said there was a shortage of cheap or free apartments in Berlin and many asylum seekers were forced to remain in centres for a long time, often facing abuse. "Refugees have been coming to our centre over the last few years asking for help," Jakel said. LGBT asylum seekers will be offered accommodation in the new centre during their asylum-seeking process and will be allowed to stay for as long as they need, he said.    (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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