Iceland

Read about LGBTI asylum in Iceland here...

Iceland is a party to the Geneva Convention of 1951 and the Protocol of 1967. Icelandic law on asylum refers directly to Article 1(A) of the Convention to define a refugee. Because of its geographic isolation, Iceland does not receive a particularly large number of refugees . In fact, a refugee law was only passed by the Icelandic parliament in 2002; prior to that time there was no framework beyond the Convention to provide for asylum. In 2001 Iceland and Norway signed an agreement with the European Community to apply the provisions of the Dublin II Regulation, determining in which European Union country a refugee can seek asylum.

In practice Iceland does not provide robust protections to those fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. Observers have noted a high rejection rate, and a significant amount of ambiguity within the asylum system . Thus, even though the situation in Iceland is generally quite positive for LGBT individuals, asylum for LGBT individuals may be difficult to successfully claim. For the purposes of immigration law, family is defined in Icelandic law to include a partner in cohabitation or a registered partnership .

Find more LGBTI country information on Iceland in our Country-by-Country section

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General on asylum in a non-EU member state

Refugee law is governed internationally by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the “Geneva Convention”) and the 1967 Protocol (the “Protocol”) which extended the previously limited scope of the convention. The text of the Convention defines a refugee as a person who

owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country .

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stated unequivocally that LGBT individuals may fall under the Convention’s definition of “refugee” when fleeing unpunished abuse and discrimination or a country where homosexuality is criminalized. Criminal laws may be per se persecution, or may only rise to persecution when applied discriminatorily or when it imposes severe penalties, including the death penalty. The absence of laws criminalizing homosexuality is also not to be considered per se evidence that there is no persecution in the country of origin.

In addition to the global law of the Convention, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has called on its members to consider persecution based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity as valid reasons for seeking asylum under the terms of the Convention.

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