Archive for the 'Refugee' Category

World Refugee Day: #LGBTrefugeeswelcome

World Refugee Day

For World Refugee Day, we stand with the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes to seek safety in distant lands. The current levels of refugee flight and displacement represent the highest levels in modern history. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home in recent years, including 22.5 million refugees, most of whom are under 18. In the time that it takes to read this article, conflict and persecution will drive 20 more people into forced displacement.

We know, too, that there are many LGBT refugees who are caught in this massive displacement. Many are fleeing the same conflict and instability that drives their neighbors from their homes, but LGBT refugees are at even greater risk of violence and persecution at every stage in their journey. They often end up in refugee camps or in neighboring countries that are deeply homophobic and transphobic, where they are likely to be violently persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Tragically, many LGBT refugees who make the excruciating decision to flee for their lives—choosing a dangerously uncertain future over certain death—find themselves even less safe in flight.

Many more refugees are fleeing targeted LGBT violence and persecution in their home countries, especially in the nearly eighty countries that criminalize same-sex relationships and non-conforming gender expression. This LGBT flight deprives emerging economies of dynamic young leaders who should be contributing to the social and economic development of their countries. More tragically, it often deprives the refugees themselves of the security and opportunity they need to build a stable future. And those who chose to stand and fight for their rights may still find the threat of prison and violence overwhelming, and they, too, may need to seek protection abroad one day. In the most violent environments, it may be impossible to survive as someone who is politically “out,” or someone who is proudly identifiable as gender non-conforming. The life expectancy of trans women in parts of Central America is only 35-years.

Today, when the world’s refugees most need our attention and sympathy, we see too many countries, the United States included, shutting borders, building walls and turning boats away from our shores. For those of us who fight for LGBT rights in the United States and abroad, we must recognize the LGBT face of the refugee emergency. This is an LGBT issue. The LGBT community in this country has both the resources and the sensitivities to do more – and those of us who survived years of social rejection, an AIDS pandemic and cycles of political vilification in this country should celebrate that remarkable human drive for authentic self-preservation, which has propelled so many of us to seek safety and a chosen community away from our own small towns or places of birth. Most LGBT refugees continue to live in fear even after fleeing their country of nationality. For them, resettlement to countries like the United States represents their only chance of living in safety. We should welcome LGBT refugees.

World Refugee Day

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Related Content: 

U.N. Information on World Refugee Day

US MAP

J Street’s World Refugee Day U. S. Event Map

White House Rally 

 

Michael Guest: Anti-immigrant rhetoric ‘painful to hear’

Repost from the Washington Blade

Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest on Monday spoke forcefully against the anti-immigrant rhetoric that many Republican presidential candidates have used on the campaign trail.

“The America that we have heard painted during this presidential campaign is so, so different from the America that I used to represent as a diplomat,” said Guest during a Council for Global Equality reception that took place in Northwest D.C. “It’s so painful to hear the dialogue. It’s so impossible to understand how U.S. diplomats now describe and explain their country abroad because we know that America really is at its best when its doors are open, when it is a beacon of hope for people like the people who have just spoken about their ordeals, when it’s a harbinger of hope.”

Guest, who is the first openly gay ambassador confirmed by the U.S. Senate, represented then-President George W. Bush’s administration in Romania from 2001-2004. He currently works for the Center [sic] for Global Equality as a senior advisor.

Guest in his remarks did not specifically mention Republican frontrunner Donald Trump or any of his GOP challengers. The former ambassador did refer to “the hateful rhetoric that we’ve heard during this campaign so far” that includes “talk of building walls” and “xenophobia.”

“This is our country,” said Guest. “No presidential candidate, no presidency is going to take our values and our character away from us.” Continue Reading

Council for Global Equality Calls on U.S. Senators to Reject Legislation Abandoning Syrian Refugees

Senate-Refugee-Letter-Nov2015-1November 25 — Members of the Council for Global Equality today sent a letter to U.S. Senators calling on them to reject legislation, already passed in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4038, that would “bring the refugee resettlement system, which already moves at a very slow pace, to a grinding halt.”  The letter recognizes that LGBT refugees in Syria and Iraq are among the most vulnerable; that they have been hunted down and killed in gruesome public executions; and that they face additional discrimination and violence in flight within their own refugee communities.

The Council’s refugee experts conclude that “[t]hese vulnerable refugees deserve our protection, and we know they can be resettled safely using current security screening and vetting processes. Denying them protection, or limiting protection to those who are Christian only, would be devastating to those who most need our compassion, and it would provide a public relations victory of sorts to ISIS and others who seek to justify their terrorism using cultural and religious propaganda.”

Protecting the persecuted, and resettling vulnerable refugees, are strong U.S. commitments that must not be rejected.  Our nation is better than that.

White House Resources on Syrian Refugees: https://www.whitehouse.gov/campaign/resources-on-syrian-refugees

HIAS’ report, “Invisible in the City,” examines protection gaps facing LGBTI refugees

Invisible in the City: Protection Gaps Facing Sexual Minority Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Ecuador, Ghana, Israel and KenyaRemarks
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
May 7, 2013

Thank you, Mark, and thank you to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for bringing us together today to celebrate this important research on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. I’d also like to recognize Yiftach Millo, lead researcher and author of the study we are all here to officially launch, “Invisible in the City: Protection Gaps Experienced by Sexual Minority Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Ecuador, Ghana, Israel, and Kenya.” I commend Mr. Millo and his team for their innovative work to help protect these refugees.

HIAS continues to be a leader in helping expose and address the barriers faced that confront lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex refugees. HIAS’s energy and vision is helping us all to find solutions to a real and persistent problem. Refugees and asylum seekers are already in a precarious position – they are at risk of exploitation, attack, and destitution. A refugee who is also part of a sexual minority is at even greater risk.

It has been over 20 years since Fidel Armanda Tobos Alfonso, a gay man from Cuba, was allowed to remain in the United States based on a judgement or understanding that he was at risk because of his sexual orientation. The Toboso-Alfonso decision paved the way for hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as individuals with intersex conditions, to obtain refuge and asylum in the United States.

From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has promoted the equal rights of LGBT people both at home and abroad. His Memorandum of December 2011 affirmed United States’s commitment to promoting the human rights of sexual minorities and specifically directed U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance agencies to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. Continue reading ‘HIAS’ report, “Invisible in the City,” examines protection gaps facing LGBTI refugees’

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis

Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT IraqisBlog Posting Written by: Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, July 2012

In March of 2012, U.S. and international media outlets reported a renewed wave of violence against LGBT individuals inside Iraq. Since that time, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has conducted nearly 50 interviews (and counting) with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqis who fear persecution and/or face serious protection concerns inside Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 45 interviewees identify as gay males and two are transgender persons, assigned female but identifying as male.

The Current Situation on the Ground for Gay Iraqi Men:

Protection concerns and vulnerabilities vary within the gay Iraqi community depending on whether the man is able to, or chooses to, hide any outward manifestation of his sexual orientation. Those that suppress any outward manifestation of their sexuality do not face immediate physical danger. Most are able to maintain jobs and leave their homes without facing serious protection concerns, but cite the psychological aspects of hiding a huge part of their identity as unbearable, and suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, all fear being “outed” and discovered by their families who may become suspicious of their sexual orientation because the men have never been married, or have been married but are now divorced.

Those whose sexual orientation is either known to their families or the general public face severe outward, physical harm, in addition to severe psychological trauma. A small number of the men interviewed were put under house arrest by family members after their sexual identity became known. This often includes severe beatings and intense pressure to marry in order to cover up any scandal. Other men were beaten by family members, mostly fathers and brothers, but then immediately kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. This forced them to live house-to-house, depending on sympathetic family members or friends. Even those with relatively safe housing do not leave their homes, unless it is absolutely necessary, out of fear of being harassed, found by family members wanting to harm them or picked up by police or security forces. A large number of men have been subjected to severe sexual violence, including rape, from family members, police, security forces, and members of the larger community. Many also reported physical violence at the hands of these perpetrators, and, to a lesser extent, militant groups like Jeash Al-Mahdi or Al-Haqq. Like those who have not been “outed,” a disturbing number of gay men, with whom IRAP spoke, wished they were dead, could change their sexual orientation or be “normal.” Continue reading ‘Protection Concerns and Vulnerabilities for LGBT Iraqis’

Strengthening Protection for LGBT Refugees

Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration addresses crowd at event marking IDAHO.

Council Chair Mark Bromley moderated a panel at an event hosted by The Council for Global Equality, The Human Rights Campaign, and Human Rights First marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). The event also marked the release of The Road to Safety: Strengthening Protection of LGBTI Refugees in Uganda and Kenya by Human Rights First. Remarks were made by the Honorable Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; as well as Eleanor Acer, Director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. HRC Legislative Director, Allison Herwitt opened the event. There was also an interactive panel discussion with Duncan Breen – Senior Associate for HRF’s Refugee Protection Program – and Larry Yungk – Senior Resettlement Officer of the UN Refugee Agency.

Click here to watch the full event.

Read Secretary Anne Richards remarks here.

New Report on LGBTI Refugees from ORAM

ORAM Rainbow Bridges 2012Rainbow Bridges, ORAM’s newest publication, shares the rare experience gained by ORAM during its yearlong pilot program assisting resettled LGBTI refugees in the San Francisco Bay Area. The refugees assisted had fled torture, severe harassment, and even execution in their countries of origin.

The guide is a treasure trove for individuals and organizations looking to lend their strength to victims of global homophobic violence by directly assisting in their U.S. integration. Rainbow Bridges includes:

  • Ways to secure U.S. admission for a refugee who is still overseas
  • Steps to build support systems for refugees among LGBTI and queer-friendly communities
  • Suggestions on providing a warm welcome to refugees during their first crucial months in the U.S.
  • Tips on safe and affordable housing for LGBTI refugees
  • Suggestions on how helping refugees can strengthen communities immeasurably

You can download the report here.


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