(Geneva, 17 February 2021)
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has ruled that Finland did not take the best interests of the child into account when rejecting his asylum application and placed him at real risk. After the refusal, the family was forced to return to Russia.
Ksenia Kirichenko, Programme Coordinator at ILGA says that "This is an innovative solution. In the UN system, this is the first asylum-related case involving a child who faces a specific risk due to the sexual orientation of his mothers and the family they form together."
The Committee's decision was informed by a third-party intervention jointly submitted by ILGA Mundo, ILGA-Europe, the International Commission of Jurists (CIJ), Child Rights International Network (CRIN) and the Network of European LGBTI Families (NELFA).
The application in the action was filed on behalf of A. B., who is now 11 years old. A. B. fled Russia with his mothers after the family became victims of harassment and threats. The child has experienced bullying and isolation at school. At that time in Russia, many regions had begun to introduce so-called "anti-propaganda laws", which contributed to the increasingly hostile attitude towards LGBTI people.
Legislation banning the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships" was passed in 2013 at the national level. Since the law was passed, persecutions and arrests of LGBTI people have begun in Russia. Children are also harassed and threatened.
A.B.'s family left for Finland in search of a better life and safety. The child started school, made friends and quickly adapted to the host environment. However, Finland rejected the asylum application.
The authorities acknowledge that A.B. has experienced harassment, threats and discrimination, but do not consider this to amount to persecution.
The family returned to Russia, but the complaint against Finland went to the United Nations, where in February 2021 the Committee on the Rights of the Child ruled in A.B.'s favor. According to the U.N.
"Finland did not take the best interests of the child into account as a primary consideration in assessing the applicant's asylum claim on the basis of his mothers' sexual orientation, nor did it protect him from a real risk of irreparable harm if he returned to Russia."
Arpi Avetisyan, Head of Litigation at ILGA-Europe, commented, "This is an important decision that sets the necessary standards to protect children from LGBTI families who are most at risk of discrimination, especially in countries like Russia where LGBTI people face stigma and hostilities in their daily lives."
"States must always ensure that the best interests of the child are effectively and systematically taken into account in the context of asylum procedures and that they are not discriminated against because of the sexual orientation of their parents."
The UNCRC states that Finland has violated Articles 3, 19 and 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also notes that the State has an obligation to provide adequate compensation to the family.
The decision has the potential to trigger change. "In the past, we have seen that international decisions on lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers have resulted in granting residency in the countries claimed," Kirichenko concluded. "We hope that Finland will ensure that this family can return and finally have a happy and safe life."
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