Dutch gay rights groups welcome vote on refugee shelters

2nd March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Dutch gay rights groups on Wednesday a vote by lawmakers to give homosexual refugees separate shelters after several received death threats from fellow asylum seekers.

"This is a major breakthrough for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers who are in desperate need of help," said Tanja Ineke of the Amsterdam-based gay rights group COC.

"A safe space for these people will make a world of difference," she told AFP after parliamentarians narrowly voted in favour of the motion on Tuesday.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage back in 2001, but homophobia in the country's refugee centres remains rife.

There have been several reported cases of gay refugees being attacked and harassed, some sexually, while others have had their clothes set on fire and beds smeared with food and faeces.

Dutch centre-left daily De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday that a gay asylum-seeker at the large Heumensoord refugee centre near the German border received a note saying "camp not good, kill you gay."

The COC had warned that urgent action was needed to prevent serious injury or even death.

Dutch Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff -- whose ruling VVD party voted against the proposal -- has been asked to make a decision on the issue within the next two weeks.

VVD parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra told the Volkskrant the motion sent the wrong signal by addressing only victims.

"Instead, we have to do something about the perpetrators," Zijlstra said.

Germany last month opened a shelter for gay refugees in Berlin capable of housing more than 120 people.

© 2016 AFP

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