On Feb 9, 2017 Daily Xtra reported: A parliamentary committee could soon probe why Canada suddenly started turning away LGBT Iranians seeking asylum, Xtra has learned. The move comes as members of Parliament express confusion over why a famed program that brought hundreds of refugees to safety has ground to a halt.
According to a Feb 3, 2017, Xtra investigation, Canada started turning away LGBT Iranians in Turkey seeking third-country resettlement, shortly after the Liberal government’s airlift of Syrians got underway in November 2015.
Since 2010, Canada has resettled hundreds of Iranians from Turkey fleeing persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Most were resettled through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), after the former Conservative government asked the agency to refer such cases to Canada, often with the help of Toronto-based activists.
But almost weekly arrivals gradually slowed, and by 2016 the UNHCR started referring these Iranians to the United States, which has now barred Iranians from entry following Trump’s executive order on several predominantly Muslim countries. Meanwhile, Canadian officials said they had too many Syrian cases to process and suggested activists privately sponsor these refugees, a costly process that takes much longer.
That’s left many LGBT Iranians stranded in Turkey amid an uptick in LGBT hate crimes and violence in the country. On Feb 8, UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal told Xtra that the agency has registered “over 1,900 LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees” in Turkey, and the “majority of these people are from Iran.”
Now, members of Parliament are starting to raise questions.