For the first time Norway will prioritise LGBT+ asylum seekers as part of a new post-coronavirus refugee scheme.
Announced on July 5 by the Storting, Norway’s federal government, the new policy will give LGBT+ refugees priority both as individuals and as a group.
The three-year scheme was introduced in coordination with the UN after the outbreak of coronavirus disrupted the international settlement of many refugees.
“Unfortunately, in many countries, it is not so that you are free to love who you want,” said the state secretary for integration affairs in the ministry of education, Grounds Kreek Almeland, in a press release.
“In nearly 70 countries, homosexuality is a criminal offence and those who violate gender and sexuality norms may be subject to persecution and discrimination in their home country.
“We are now changing the guidelines for the work of transfer refugees so that persons who are queer should be given priority.”
The scheme applies only to transfer refugees — individuals who have been registered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and transferred from one asylum country to another for permanent resettlement.
With the exception of a few urgent cases, the pandemic forced the UNHCR and the United Nations International Organisation for Migration to temporarily halt all refugee travel.
Norway will now kick-start the resettlement with a yearly quota of 3,000 transfer refugees. The quota is flexible, meaning that that if fewer refugees are settled in a one-year period then more can be accepted in the years after.
Like much of Scandinavia, Norway prides itself on being one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.
In 2012 Norway reformed its asylum policy with a Supreme Court ruling which stated that potential LGBT+ asylum seekers did not have to be living in the closet in their home country to be considered for resettlement.