Practice, Prospects and Challenges of NGOs. Working with LGBTIQ Asylum-Seekers in Germany: Homonationalism as a Practice-Informing Concept for International Social Work with LGBTIQ Asylum-Seekers and Refugees
The aim of this master’s thesis was to add the case of Germany to the discussions on queer asylum in asylum granting countries of the Global North. The thesis focused on the support structures of non-governmental organizations in Germany which assist LGBTIQ asylum-seekers before, during and after the asylum claims of those who are persecuted based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Drawing on Foucault’s concept of bio-politics and Puar’s concept of homonationalism, sexuality was taken as a system of power at the intersection of race, ethnicity and social class within the context of flight and migration; and queer asylum was taken as not only exclusionary by disposal of the right to asylum, but also regulatory by enforcing linear and limited understandings of queerness to claimants as the only way to gain asylum. Accordingly, the thesis addressed two levels of concern: (1) the ways queer asylum serves to reproduce hegemonic discourses that are not only against but also in favor of the right to asylum of LGBTIQ claimants; (2) the scope of the work conducted by NGOs assisting LGBTIQ asylum-seekers and refugees, and the relevance of post-structural, queer and post-colonial modes of thinking within their very practice.
The chosen methodology for the thesis was expert interviews with six NGOs from four different federal states of Germany. Based on the thematic analysis of the data gathered through semi-structured interviews with NGO workers, the results have shown the relevance of a critical approach employing post-structural, queer and post-colonial modes of thinking within queer asylum specific social work practice. Phenomena of (a) instrumentalization of queer rights and queer asylum for anti-immigration rhetoric, (b) creating an illusionary division of homo-/transphobia free countries vs. the rest of the world, (c) victimization of queer asylum-seekers and refugees by depiction of flight from oppression to liberation, (d) sexualization of queer asylum-seekers and refugees through an overemphasis on their SOGI and overlooking the impact of poverty, unemployment and class differences on their lives were considered of high importance to be aware of as practitioners working with that specific target-group, in order to not to fuel but to contest both exclusionary and regulatory asylum policies on disparate lived experiences of SOGI-based asylum claimants. The good practice examples of interviewees, including the use of SOGI categories not in a normative and regulatory way; provision of psychosocial services in a non-paternalistic manner; encouragement of clients for self-emancipation and self-organization; and constant advocacy work not overlooking the structural problems inside Germany were taken as indicators for the necessity of a multidirectional political analysis within queer asylum specific social work.
Key words: Asylum, Germany, homonationalism, LGBTI, refuge, sexuality, social work, queer