This article was published on February 4th, 2015
According to the United Nations (UN), in June 2014 there were more that 50 million refugees worldwide. While many refugees are escaping war, political regimes, and famine, LGBT refugees face these realities and worse. They are generally escaping government-sanctioned persecution and hate propaganda. There are 79 countries where being LGBT is a criminal offence, and in 10 countries it is punishable by death.
In 2013 a group of men got together to sponsor two gay Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNCR). It required almost a year of fundraising, paperwork, and coordination with other non-profits to navigate the refugee system. LGBT refugees face unique challenges. Imagine coming from another country and not having French or English language skills, and requiring basic needs such as affordable housing and access to healthcare. Where do these people get assistance to services that are LGBT friendly?
Unlike male refugees, many lesbian refugees face even harder challenges getting to safer countries. Their government regimes require males in the family to grant permission for visas and passports. Some forbid women to seek education, so they are less likely to be granted visas to study abroad. Imagine the fear of going to a consulate and seeking asylum as a LGBT refugee and not being sure if your “secret” will be safe; many are asked to prove they are LGBT.
Transgender people face even harder struggles, as they face prejudice not only in the country from which they came, but also in Canada. Many LGBT refugees are afraid of governmental authority figures. They have been conditioned to be wary of police and government officials who persecuted and arrested them merely for being LGBT.
These are just a few of their many challenges. But why should we care? Canada and the United States have been built on the foundation of refugees and immigrants. Ensuring LGBT refugees and immigrants have community support ensures we create a supportive, caring and vibrant community. The success and well being of our LGBT community is based on our treatment of refugees, youth and seniors.
The Foundation of Hope was established to support Canadian non-profit charities that provide services and support for LGBT refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. The Foundation of Hope is one of many organizations that are stepping up in our community to make a difference in the lives of LGBT refugees. Get informed, get involved, or just donate to these organizations. You may be surprised just how easy it is to help make a difference.