UN Highlights Protection Needs for LGBTI Refugees

On Oct 17,2012 Human Rights First reports: In recent weeks, two officials from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have taken steps to address the unique challenges facing LGBTI refugees by raising awareness and advocating for further protection.

On October 3, in front of various government representatives at UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller spoke of growing awareness that those fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity should qualify as refugees and encouraged more countries to grant refugee status on this basis. She also noted that the “discrimination [LGBTI refugees] encounter can be virulent, their isolation from family and community profound, and the harm inflicted on them severe.

Two weeks prior, the Director of UNHCR’s Division of International Protection, Volker Türk, speaking in Geneva at a Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) symposium, recognized the “myriad of threats, risks and vulnerabilities” LGBTI refugees face at all stages of displacement. He stressed that the persecution LGBTI refugees flee from is at times repeated in the country of asylum and within refugee communities, and that this limits their access to community support networks and humanitarian services. To improve protection for LGBTI refugees, he announced that UNHCR is updating its Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, rolling out training for staff and developing a tool and guidance for resettlement staff.

In May of this year, we released our report The Road to Safety that examined the plight of LGBTI refugees in Uganda and Kenya, including threats to their physical safety and difficulties in accessing services from government service providers, the UNHCR and NGOs. These statements represent important recognition by UNHCR headquarters of the challenges that LGBTI refugees face as well as some of the steps needed to improve protection and assistance. Continued. Read the full article.