The fourth in a series of posts that portray the complex journeys of individual asylum seekers who come to Asylos

by Julia Z. Pohl

This edition of our asylum stories brings you the journey of C, a young Tologese child who was born intersex and had to face the unpredictability of immigration procedures. 

C was born in Belgium without an immigration status. In order to obtain one, C had to face a series of administrative hoops. Obtaining a residence permit requires identification, which in turn requires the registration of C’s birth. However, for a birth certificate to be issued, C’s parents would have to medically stimulate the development of either female or male sexual reproductive organs- a grave intrusion into the child’s life that they refused to undertake. Many months had to pass until the natural development of the child encouraged the parents to obtain a birth certificate and register the child. This enabled the family to apply for a residence permit based upon the Belgium procedure “la régularisation”. It is an exceptional residence procedure that allows a person in an irregular situation to obtain a residence permit for humanitarian or medical reasons. The family’s uncertain destiny came to an end when the authorities approved their claim due to C’s need for exceptional medical treatment, recognising the parents as accompanying caretakers of the child. 

At age 8, C’s entire life had been spent in Belgium and all future planning had rested on the assumption that the family would continue to live there 

The fate of C and C’s family was turned around years later when, following a change in political leadership, the Belgian government put in place a medical filter which excluded C’s medical history from the regularisation procedure. This meant an immediate suspension of the family’s residence permit. C’s parents were left devastated and desperate. At age 8, C’s entire life had been spent in Belgium, a stable social environment had been built and all future planning had rested on the assumption that the family would continue to live in Belgium. Moreover, a return to Togo entailed the terrifying prospect of physical and psychological discrimination of C as a member of the LGBTI community.

Because of superstition, Togolese society perceives children such as C as devilish 

Thereupon, C’s lawyer filed an asylum claim based upon the dangers of violence and discrimination C would face if sent to Togo and approached Asylos for help. Through the combination of publicly available information such as reports from international organisations and NGOs, government and academic sources, as well as a newly produced interview source with an engaged member of the LGBTI community in Togo, Asylos was able to provide a wealth of information which assisted the lawyer in substantiating C’s claim. Our report pointed towards  a lack of a legal framework to protect LGBTI individuals from discrimination; C would have had no official support when facing social stigmatisation and exclusion. In addition, we found that various attacks against LGBTI individuals, including children, had taken place in Togo. We also found evidence that points to an institutionalisation of discrimination through the Catholic church, an institution that maintains a strong societal influence. Because of superstition, children such as C are often perceived as devilish and a manifestation of witchcraft, resulting in their ill-treatment. Without effective protection by the state, C would have thus faced the dangers of physical and psychological violence and be forced to live in a country C had never before set foot in. 

C’s legal representative was able to use our research to successfully facilitate a case which lead to C being granted refugee status. Our report was submitted as evidence and provided the judge with the necessary context since this marked the judge’s first case on an intersex individual. C’s lawyer confirmed that the researched evidence had an overall positive impact on the decision that changed C and C's parents’ life. Being granted refugee status, C can continue to live in a socially stable environment that had been built since C’s birth and realise future planning in Belgium.

Curious to find out what happened to other asylum seekers who came to Asylos? Check out our asylum stories here:
Read more stories 

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