By Naomi McAuliffe, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International

LGBTI people in Scotland now enjoy a more progressive environment; equal marriage was enacted in 2014 and the Scottish Government’s review of the Gender Recognition Act is a positive step. But there is still more we can do.

Individuals should be able to decide their gender and we believe the Scottish Government should remove stigmatising medical assessments and over-burdensome requirements for people to live in their true identity. Safety concerns that have been raised can be addressed through thoughtful and sensitive policies and procedures. But the current process is demeaning and counter to a person’s freedom from discrimination based on gender identity. Amnesty International is also calling for equal recognition for non-binary people (people who don’t identify as male or female) to ensure the highest possible standard of health care for everyone.

As President Trump spends the weekend in Scotland, our LGBTI Network will be marching at Glasgow Pride on behalf of Alejandra (surname withheld for her safety), a 43-year-old transgender woman and LGBTI rights activist from El Salvador who requested asylum at the US–Mexico border in November 2017. After fighting for human rights for more than a decade in El Salvador, Alejandra was forced to flee her home country to escape repeated attacks and sexual abuse by a criminal gang and Salvadoran military officials. She was targeted because of her transgender identity.

She failed to find safety when she reached the US border; instead, she was placed in immigration detention at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico – a private prison with inadequate and unresponsive health care. She told us: “We make requests for medical examinations, and they don’t respond or give us an examination for 15 days.”

On May 25, Roxana Hernandez, a 33-year-old transgender Honduran woman who was briefly held in the same unit as Alejandra, died at a hospital in New Mexico from medical complications. Her death highlights the risks that trans asylum seekers with acute medical needs face in immigration detention.

Detention of asylum seekers should only be a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. Alejandra deserves the opportunity to live safely and freely while awaiting the decision on her case. People have the right to seek asylum from persecution and there is no reason why she should be locked up for seeking protection. And yet her parole application was denied; she was not given a reason.

Alejandra’s situation is not unique; there are many more trans people seeking asylum in the US trapped for months in detention centres where they are at risk of ill-treatment because of their gender identity, medical needs, or the trauma they have endured. This is another example of the cruel and inhumane policies the Trump administration employs to deter people in search of safety from persecution and violence.

Alejandra’s niece has been granted asylum in the US and she is keen to be reunited with her: “First I want to go run and hug my niece. We would like to live together.”

Tomorrow at Pride in Glasgow, Amnesty International’s LGBTI Network will march in solidarity with Alejandra and call on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately release her on humanitarian parole while she awaits the decision on her asylum claim. Amnesty has asked its seven million members, supporters and activists worldwide to take action on her behalf. Visit