Posts

Stop Neglecting the True State of LGBT Refugees

 

 

isis_mob_waiting

Crowd gathers to watch as ISIS throws man from roof after accused of being gay.

LGBT people face mortal danger from ISIS and around the world, yet few ever obtain refuge in the U.S.

In December 2011, President Obama published a trailblazing memorandum vowing to apply U.S. power to create safety for LGBT people oppressed and endangered around the world. Among the key means: securing LGBT refugees’ access to the U.S. refugee system. This venerable goal is eluding us.

As the president delivers his final State of the Union address tonight, the perils facing LGBT people in many countries around the world have never been so dire.

Never have so many LGBT people been so viciously targeted by state and nonstate actors in so many countries. Never before have leaders outside the U.S. used LGBT issues for political gain with such ease. And far from gaining access to refugee systems, the few LGBT people who escape carnage in their countries are unable to access the fortress of international refugee protection or the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Several months ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power shocked the world when she revealed that of the 70,000 refugees the U.S. took in during 2014, fewer than 100 were LGBT. The numbers for 2015 will not be better.

Without a solution, LGBT people will continue to be executed in places like Syria, where the bloodthirsty Islamic State terrorist group and the masses alike execute accused gays in the name of piety.

With so much goodwill and commitment on the president’s part, something is terribly wrong. Without a firm understanding of how and why LGBT refugees access — and are locked out of — refugee systems, the State Department, which runs our country’s refugee program, has been faltering at efforts to improve the dismal picture, using methods that have been tried and have failed.

But there is a way. The U.S. certainly can admit vastly more LGBT refugees.

LGBT refugees face insurmountable barriers accessing protection, as self-disclosure puts them in mortal danger. We’ve all heard the countless horrifying stories of innocent people being thrown from buildings simply because they are accused of being gay. Yet receiving protection requires revealing their identity.

To begin creating access routes, the State Department must work much more closely with LGBT organizations already in the field. To create a sliver of trust and safety in such treacherous territory, refugee professionals must not only have extraordinary expertise and sensitivity, they must also embody the message they utter.

The humanitarian community understands that a female survivor of rape should not be expected to tell her true story to anyone but another woman. Yet LGBT refugees are expected to blithely allow ostensibly heterosexual adjudicators into the most difficult vaults of their personal lives.

A rainbow flag and a concerned look are a good start. But for an LGBT refugee escaping certain death after being hounded by decades of external and internal homophobia, these gestures are not nearly enough. To collect the courage to come out — even in order to save their own lives — most refugees need to derive strength and solace from other LGBT people. Yet in most places, this essential touchstone is nowhere to be seen.

In a recent informal survey of Gaziantep, Turkey, the ground zero refugee city housing 220,000 Syrians, I found not a single “out” LGBT refugee. Not surprisingly, of the thousands of nongovernmental organization workers in that border city, not one refugee worker is “out.” If well-protected refugee agency staff will not dare come out of their comfort zone to colleagues, how can we possibly expect a powerless LGBT refugee to expose this most private and lethal vulnerability to a stranger?

Many refugees have paid with their lives to safeguard their secret sexual orientation or gender identity. We cannot bring them back. But we can spare those now clamoring for dear life in hundreds of places like Gaziantep.

The president’s bold call for increasing the Syrian refugee quota by 10,000 slots is commendable. Employing and protecting openly LGBT staff and partnering closely with openly LGBT groups is the key to creating system access for LGBT refugees. We ask that the Obama administration take these essential steps to fulfill the wise objectives originally set out by the president in 2011.

NEIL GUNGRAS

NEIL GRUNGRAS is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration, an international nonprofit devoted to advocating on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Australian LGBT Refugees – Stop them sending them to Papua New Guinea

Australia has just guaranteed that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees, who arrive by boat, will be sent to Papua New Guinea – where being gay could get you 14 years in jail.Australia is one of the few countries in the region that openly accepts LGBT people. It has always been a safe haven for refugees fleeing persecution. Now, only weeks out from an election, the government has thrown together this controversial policy in the hope of winning votes. Worse yet, the opposition party are proposing an even more extreme policy.

The policy has already begun to backfire, with Australians taking to the streets in protest and former Prime Ministers publicly denouncing the move. Local outrage has all parties contesting the election scrambling to respond.

Will you join the call for Australia to drop its dangerous new policy that denies hope and safety to those who they need it most?
www.allout.org/australian-home

In Papua New Guinea, it’s a crime to be gay. Because of that, any person seeking asylum there can automatically be turned away. Every LGBT person who arrives by boat will have little choice but to lie about who they are to avoid being sent home.

With their reputation under attack, Australia’s leaders could be pushed to stop violating the Geneva Conventions and protect the most vulnerable.

Sign this petition and tell Australia that you won’t stand for this:

www.allout.org/australian-home

The full policy states that all people arriving by boat to seek asylum will be relocated to Papua New Guinea where their refugee claims will be assessed, and only then allowed to settle in the community. Legal experts have already denounced the plan for breaching international law. It is singling out people on boats for taking the last resort available to them.

Hiding on a leaky boat, crossing some of the world’s most dangerous oceans, is the most difficult way to reach such an isolated country. No one would take such a risky boat journey if their very lives weren’t on the line.

Will you sign the petition against the Australian government’s plan to force people back into danger?

www.allout.org/australian-home

All Out’s first ever campaign successfully halted the deportation of Ugandan lesbian Brenda Namagadde from the UK back to her home country. Since then, we’ve become a powerful movement of over 1.7 million people fighting anti-gay laws around the world. Take a stand against Australia’s unfair targeting of asylum seekers – sign the petition:

www.allout.org/australian-home

Thanks for going All Out.

Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Marie, Marie-Marguerite, Sara, and the rest of the All Out team.

SOURCES:

UN refugee agency raises more concerns over Labor’s PNG solution – The Guardian,  26 July 2013
www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/26/united-nations-agency-asylum-policy

Rudd plan in tatters as camps labelled ‘gulags’ – Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2013
www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/rudd-plan-in-tatters-as-camps-labelled-gulags

Coalition wants military led campaign against people smugglers – ABC, 25 July 2013 
www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-25/coalition-wants-military-led-campaign-against-people-smugglers

How to break the people smugglers real business model – Inside Story, 25 July 2013
www.inside.org.au/how-to-break-the-people-smugglers-real-business-model

More than a legal issue, PNG plan challenges core principles – Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2013
www.smh.com.au/comment/more-than-a-legal-issue-png-plan-challenges-core-principles

 

Support All Out!
We don’t take money from governments or corporations, so the only people we have to listen to are our members. Our tiny team stretches every contribution to make them count. Donate

All Out is bringing people together in every corner of the planet and of every identity – lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and all that’s between and beyond – to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are.

This is a campaign of Purpose Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.

Our mailing address is:
Purpose Action
115 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
USA

Copyright © 2013 AllOut.org, All rights reserved.