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Post-LGBTQI Asylum Event: Recap
Post-LGBTQI Asylum Event: Recap
On Tuesday, October 20th, Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, LGBT-FAN, and Housing Works Inc, hosted an LGBTQI Asylum Seeker & Refugee event titled LGBT Asylum Seekers: Where Do We Go Now? The event’s objective was to raise awareness of the atrocities LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees face every day in order to escape persecution from their home country’s governments at the United Nations. Not only did UN representatives attend the event, but many LGBT asylum seekers from Jamaica, Nigeria, Uganda, and Syria attended the event as well. The event was comprised of panelists, a Q&A session, and a break for the panelists and the audience members to network. The panelists were Bruce Knotts, Director of Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office; Scott Davis, The Asylum Project Director from Housing Works Inc.; an asylee from Russia and an asylum seeker from Nigeria who asked that their identities not be shared; Alice Farmer, U.S. Protection Officer from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and Janay Farmer, an immigration attorney from HIV Law Project Inc. Bruce Knotts introduced the event discussing global LGBTQI issues. Our world is developing in a social polarity where some countries are growing liberally while others are growing more conservatively. LGBTQI asylum seekers in detention are treated like prisoners and beaten for being themselves. Scott Davis talked about what Housing Works Inc. and The Asylum Project do well by elaborating on how they assist in the needs of LGBT people. Housing Works fights HIV/AIDS and homelessness with medical, legal, and housing assistance while providing lifesaving work for asylum seekers. The Russian asylee told his experience living in Russia and being beaten by the police. He feared persecution from the government and applied for asylum in the United States. A man from Nigeria shared his experiences fleeing because he was working in LGBT rights. He left his wife and kids because he feared the government would arrest him and hurt his family. He fled to make sure his family was safe from the government as well as from Nigerian culture and society. Alice Farmer spoke about UNHCR’s procedures and documents for LGBTQI refugees. UU-UNO will share documents from UNHCR within the coming week. Janay Farmer explained the complex and intense process of granting asylum in the United States. She indicated asylum seekers would need to show persecution from their entire country. While it is a long process, it is necessary for some. It was a very meaningful event with all the panelists speaking about global LGBTQI issues. Specifically discussing about how UNHCR is responding to LGBTQI discrimination in refugee camps, a detailed explanation of the immigration process for LGBTQI asylum seekers, and personal stories from asylum seekers fleeing their home countries. Many members of the audience were interested in the process of immigration in the United States and how it differs between heterosexual and homosexual asylum seekers and refugees. Since Janay Farmer specializes in immigration with PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS), many audience members asked about the difference between immigration attorneys who do pro bono work with HIV positive and HIV negative clients. December 10th is the International Human Rights Day, where this year is the beginning of a year-long campaign celebrating the 50th anniversary of two important international covenants on human rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. During this year-long campaign, UU-UNO will raise awareness of global LGBTQ issues as well as the issues LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees endure at the United Nations as well as other members of the international community. This January 2016, UU-UNO is organizing an LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees event during National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change conference in Chicago, one of the largest LGBTQ conferences in the United States. "Since 1988, Creating Change has created the opportunity for thousands of committed people to develop and hone their skills, celebrate victories, build community, and to be inspired by visionaries of our LGBTQ movement and allied movements for justice and equality." Our event will focus on how religious organizations can assist in the needs of LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees. We hope to have many events in the future regarding LGBTQI asylum with the United Nations, as well as UU congregations around the New York City area.  

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