UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has launched this week a series of consultations to identify ways of ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (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, “Justice and Protection for All”, the first round of consultations with LGBTI organizations and advocates took place today, 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.
“These efforts must also be reflected within our workforce. LGBTI colleagues working for UNHCR must feel safe and free from the fear of judgement or discrimination, and confident that they are provided with equal career opportunities and the support they need,” said the High Commissioner.
“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.