STUDY: Asylum Groups Fail To Protect LGBT Refugees

A survey conducted by sociologists at Indiana University and the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) indicates widespread failure to protect LGBT and intersex refugees.Conducted in advance of World Refugee Day on June 20, the survey examined  384 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 100 countries with questionnaires and follow-up interviews.

The survey found that NGOs often fail to adequately protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees and asylum seekers. Many NGOs ignore the refugees’ plights or are ill-equipped to work with LGBTI people. Those gaps were identified across the globe but were starkest in countries where protection is most needed.

For example, although nearly all NGOs said LGBTI refugees deserve protection, a significant minority stated that they were not willing to provide that assistance. “Let’s be honest, the refugees, the migrants…who are homosexual or lesbian, they’re frowned upon,” said one survey respondent.

Refugees fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity face hardship even when they find sanctuary, says ORAM’s Neil Grungras. “They are placed in housing where they are exposed to violence, or are compelled to hide the true reason they were persecuted, which puts their legal status in jeopardy.”

Grungras says these individuals are “virtually invisible” in the world of asylum organizations.

Indiana University sociologist Oren Pizmony-Levy calls it a vicious cycle: Many NGOs do not welcome LGBTI refugees and the asylum seekers don’t approach them. [Then] NGOs think that persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not serious and tend to overlook the problem.”

ORAM is calling on NGOs to foster welcoming environments for LGBT refugees, become aware of the their unique issues and fears, and institute practices that prevent discrimination based on orientation and gender identity.