Queer Base – Welcome and Support for LGBTIQ Refugees offers specialized counseling, support and educational work in the field of sexual orientation, gender identity and refugees (SOGI). It is the only counseling center of its kind in Austria.
The services of the Queer Base include counseling on violence prevention, accommodation, mental and sexual health care, care, etc., coordination with GVS institutions, accompaniment to authorities and police and community activities, trainings and workshops in the field of education, among other things, to raise awareness of employees of various organizations working in the field of asylum and integration, as well as networking and lobbying work.
Special challenges arose in 2021 due to the ongoing COVID pandemic and the resulting working conditions. We tried to offer personal consultations as far as possible, because especially in the work fields of coming out counseling, violence prevention, mental illness and multiple discrimination, on-site consultations enable an important aspect of security in the conversations. The Queer Base staff worked monthly in two shifts, alternating between home office and on-site, in order to distribute the spatial capacities accordingly. In the colder months, we were hardly able to offer group meetings and events. Under appropriate measures, the Mental Health Talk Café, music therapy, and a trauma-sensitive yoga group took place. During the lower incidence weeks, we were able to offer outdoor activities (picnics, sports) as well as the Queer Base Café in the Villa Garden. These offerings were very popular. Nevertheless, the stresses in the area of mental health are massive and are also reflected in our counseling statistics.
Especially the duration of the proceedings puts a lot of stress on the clients of Queer Base, often the coming out is postponed until the hoped-for time after the recognition. This increases the fear of being outed in various areas of life, resulting in a deterioration of psychological stability. This became especially clear in the case of clients who need EBB or who have left the accommodations in Vienna due to homophobic, transphobic and dangerous situations and who have no possibility of admission to the GVS Vienna for months or even years, even though they have been living in Vienna for a long time.
These long-term impacts show a particular need for follow-up on housing, employment, and health integration issues.
Milestones in 2021
Despite all the multiple pressures of the pandemic, major milestones were achieved in grant year 2021:
We trained about 150 legal advisors:inside the BBU and sensitized them in the field of LGBTIQ on the run and equipped them with appropriate knowledge. The cooperation between Queer Base as a social and legal counseling center with the nationalized legal counseling of BBU enables a large-scale improvement of the care situation of LGBTIQ refugees. More trainings in the area of federal basic services are planned for 2022, which leads to the next milestone of our work.
Finally, a first form of structural measure has succeeded in the area of early detection of vulnerability. Through networking, refugees can be identified early on as belonging to the LGBTIQ group and put in contact with the Queer Base. This enables early placement in specific basic services and helps to shorten procedures. This coordination at the federal level could result in a significant increase in the overall assessment of Austria, as direct contacts through BBU placements have already increased significantly.
Our statistics show very clearly how Queer Base’s work contributes to shortening the duration of proceedings. This is especially important in view of the increasing number of applications, as staff and accommodation resources are generally scarce. This is particularly clear for clients from Iraq.
A particular milestone is the quality assurance measures in the area of interpreting services in asylum procedures, which began in 2021. After the recommendation paper of the expert circle “Initial police interviews in asylum procedures” (2017) as well as the resolution on “Ensuring fair and quality asylum procedures” (2020), to which Queer Base contributed significantly, the Translation Science of the University of Vienna started with an evaluation concept, which among other things aims at the creation of a central administration of interpreters inside with appropriate qualification. Queer Base plans to cooperate with Translation Studies, in particular to contribute to the development of glossaries and the handling of interpreters for sensitive topics.
As can be seen in the general overview, the majority of our clients were in proceedings lasting several years.
The conservation of GVS resources is particularly evident in the chart, because the applicants are already granted asylum in the first instance and thus no longer remain in basic care. While the recognition in the federal provinces takes place equally in the first and second instance, the specific support in Vienna shortens the procedure massively.
You can find the entire annual report (focus on basic care) here: Jahresbericht21 (German only)