Close to 80 nations on our planet criminalize same sex relations. Eight of these apply the death penalty for homosexual acts. With homophobic laws around the world ranging from anti-propaganda laws to lifelong imprisonment or death sentences, the lives of millions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people are in danger, simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
As a result, LGBTQ people are forced to flee their homes, becoming refugees or asylum seekers.
Refugees are people who flee their native country due to fear of persecution related to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. They are unable to return to their home country and are not applying for citizenship.
Asylum seekers are people who have fled their country with a fear of persecution, arrive in a new country on their own, and then apply to live in their new country permanently. The asylum process could include a mandatory detention in an immigration facility for one year.
Asylees are asylum seekers who have been granted asylum in their new country and have to wait another five years until they gain citizenship.
Asylum seekers and refugees expect to find safety after leaving their home countries, but often encounter hardships when they arrive. Some LGBTQ asylum seekers flee to nearby countries that also have discriminatory laws. Others flee to Europe, the United States, or Canada, where they face lengthy procedures and interviews that may endanger their well-being. Asylum seekers are not entitled to a free attorney if they cannot afford one, and may be forced to navigate the legal system on their own. The asylum process can be traumatizing, sometimes forcing already vulnerable LGBTQ asylum seekers to prove their sexuality as part of their case. For the duration of the legal process, asylum seekers are prevented from working. They also lack access to welfare or other programs supported by governmental funds. Asylum seekers often become homeless, struggling to meet their basic needs such as food, warm clothes, and transportation. They often experience Post-traumatic stress disorder having fled from attacks, torture, and murder. Even after they gain asylum, LGBTQ asylees may continue to face discrimination in their new home, as individuals of color, as immigrants, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What Can You Do?
- Host an advocacy event. In the past, the UU-UNO hosted advocacy events at congregations and at the United Nations Church Center with LGBTQ asylees who can share their stories about going through the asylum process. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with “SOGI/LGBTQ” in the subject line, if you are interested in what UU-UNO has done and plans to do in the future.
- Start a Guardian Group at your congregation to provide support for LGBTQ asylum seekers. Find out more about First Unitarian Society of San Francisco’s Guardian Group here.
- Donate to our partner, Housing Works. The Housing Works Asylum Project provides housing, health care, legal support, financial support, volunteer work, job training, and employment to LGBTQ activists from Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica, and other nations who seek sanctuary in the U.S. donate to Housing Works.
- Learn more about LGBTQ Asylum & Refugees. Check out these sources and learn more about the asylum process and how LGBTQ people are affected when seeking refuge and asylum.