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UNHCR: LGBTIQ+ refugees need inclusion, fulsome support

Speeches and statements

UNHCR: LGBTIQ+ refugees need inclusion, fulsome support

Statement marking the 2024 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia attributed to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi
17 May 2024 Also available in:
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GENEVA – Today, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are reflecting on the struggle faced by people who are forced to flee persecution, harm and discrimination simply because of who they are and how they identify.

LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced people and stateless people can face a multitude of challenges and threats in their countries of origin, including discrimination, prejudice, violence and hurdles accessing assistance, services and opportunities for resilience and solutions.

Discrimination and stigma are all too rife, and those identifying as LGBTIQ+ are often targeted, harassed, ostracized or subjected to the most appalling violence. Some are then forced to flee for their lives, requiring international protection.

Those who seek safety elsewhere may then face further jeopardy in the form of homophobic and transphobic violence in host countries, often creating barriers to their right to seek and enjoy asylum and access to services, including national services. These risks can be compounded by xenophobic hostility, precarious legal status, socio-economic marginalization, isolation from traditional support networks and acute emotional distress. 

We have seen examples of marginalization and hostility towards LGBTIQ+ people in different displacement settings in the last year. This needs to stop. 

UNHCR shares the concern of other UN agencies about some of the regressive legal and policy steps that some countries have recently adopted towards LGBTIQ+ individuals. LGBTIQ+ identity can be illegal and, sometimes, even punishable by death. Organizations working with and led by LGBTIQ+ individuals find themselves under scrutiny or even outlawed.  

We continue to remind all that, as Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. No-one should be denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to seek and enjoy asylum, simply because of who they are, or the way that they identify. Hatred, including in the form of misinformation and hate speech, violence, discrimination and exclusion must not be allowed to foment. 

UNHCR remains committed to improving the protection of forcibly displaced and stateless people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.  We will continue to partner and work with local LGBTIQ+ organizations, including those led by displaced people, to help protect the rights and safety of those forced to flee and ensure their inclusion in their host communities. This includes designing response and implementing services that are safe and inclusive of the diverse needs, priorities and capacities of LGBTIQ+ people. We remain committed to pursuing solutions for LGBTIQ+ refugees, in cooperation with States and global activists. We will also continue to sensitize our staff and partners through capacity development initiatives, also in cooperation with LGBTIQ+ organizations. We continue our cooperation with the Independent Expert on SOGI and other UN Agencies in mobilizing solidarity on the plight of LGBTIQ+ persons in forced displacement. 

No one should be forced to flee. But if it happens, no one – including those most at risk, like LGBTIQ+ individuals – should be left behind. They must feel involved, included and protected, wherever they are.