UNHCR chief calls for solidarity with LGBTI displaced

Filippo Grandi stresses the need to support those forced to flee because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

A person hangs a rainbow flag to a window.

Supporting LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers (Alex St-Denis, camera-editor)

GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, is calling for solidarity with LGBTI people who are forced to flee their homes because of their sexual orientation and identity.

Grandi made the plea in a video address to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), which is this year around the theme of Alliances for Solidarity.

In it, he highlighted the importance of formal and informal networks and coalitions in providing protection and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people.

“As human beings we all rely on our support networks, be it family, friends, or community and religious groups,” Grandi said. “When people flee their homes and communities, their support networks become fragile and broken, and the protection risks they face often become more acute.”

Grandi stressed that LGBTI refugees and internally displaced people, frequently more than others, are confronted with this challenge, even in countries of asylum.

“It is up to all of us ... to ensure the voices of LGBTI displaced and stateless people are listened to."

“Finding and developing adequate support networks is therefore crucial to the realization of their rights and enabling them to pursue their aspirations in the countries and communities in which they seek protection,” said Grandi.

For years, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has been responding to the protection needs of LGBTI displaced and stateless people.

“We each have an important role to play,” Grandi said. “We can strengthen LGBTI refugees’ and IDPs’ support networks, encouraging governments, civil society, humanitarian and development actors, donors, academia, the private sector to help ensure that all refugees, internally displaced and stateless people are treated as equals in dignity and rights.”

Grandi said UNHCR has taken steps including establishing networks and training staff and partners to ensure that its programmes are safe and inclusive of LGBTI people. Grandi also took the opportunity to celebrate diversity within UNHCR’s own workforce.

“It is up to all of us, in operations around the world, to ensure the voices of LGBTI displaced and stateless people are listened to and incorporated into all aspects of our work,” Grandi continued. “And that we as individuals contribute to inclusive working environments that value and support the contributions of LGBTI colleagues and their families.”