UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has launched this week a series of consultations to identify ways of ensuring that LGBTI refugees are better protected against harm, and are able to seek justice and support when they experience violence and discrimination.
Echoing the theme chosen for this year’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT), “Justice and Protection for All”, the first round of consultations with LGBTI organizations and advocates took place on 16 May 2019, in Geneva. Other consultations will take place in different parts of the world in the coming months.
“UNHCR has been working hard to ensure that LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees are protected wherever they are, but we need to mobilize further. This is why it is so important to hear from and join up forces with individuals and organizations that have expert knowledge on this issue,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
With over 70 countries around the world still criminalizing same sex relationships, many LGBTI people continue to experience severe human rights abuses and persecution in their home countries. Forced to seek safety and protection abroad, they often face similar or even greater risks once arrived in neighboring countries.
“It is vital that we create safe spaces for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees so they don’t feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity in an effort to protect themselves,” said Grandi, noting that over the past years, UNHCR has invested in developing guidance, tools and training on LGBTI issues for its staff and partners.
The High Commissioner noted that there have been many encouraging examples of the work done in the field in recent years, such as working with LGBTI leaders in Africa to enhance outreach and referral to services, building networks with employers to create livelihood opportunities for LGBTI refugees in the Americas, and establishing LGBTI youth support groups in the Middle East region.
“The fight for LGBTI rights is about each of us. It is about our diversity and our humanity. We should all play an active role in combating homophobia, transphobia and biphobia,” he concluded.
Juan fled gang violence in Honduras after being threaten by recruiters and is now seeking international protection in Mexico. ©UNHCR/Elisabet Diaz Sanmartin
“We should have the right to be who we are, to be free and to be safe,” says Pedro, a transgender man forced to escape El Salvador. In Guatemala he fell in love with Lucia, a transgender woman. ©UNHCR/Pablo Villagran
Staff and partners stand in from of the rainbow flag hanging on the outside of UNHCR headquarters on May 17th, to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. ©UNHCR/Susan Hopper