For Immediate Release: May 17, 2012
Washington, DC – A new Human Rights First report issued today offers specific steps that the United States should take to address gaps in the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)refugees. The recommendations are based, in part, on field research conducted in Uganda and Kenya. The group’s recommendations are a roadmap for the Obama administration as it continues its work to fulfill President Obama’s December 2011 memorandum mandating U.S. agencies to strengthen the protection of LGBTI refugees and directing “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”
“LGBTI refugees are often among the most vulnerable refugees,” said Human Rights First’s Duncan Breen, author of The Road to Safety: Strengthening Protection of LGBTI Refugees in Uganda and Kenya. “After fleeing persecution in their home countries, they are sometimes attacked, threatened and face other serious risks in the nations to which they flee. The Presidential Memorandum committed the United States to implement policies that can help these refugees find safety and access basic life-saving services. This report is a roadmap for the administration to use as it works to fulfill that commitment.”
Breen, who will speak today at a Human Rights First, Council for Global Equality, and Human Rights Campaign “Equality Talks” event highlighting the report, based his findings and recommendations on in-field research that included interviews with more than 70 LGBTI refugees, UNHCR and NGO staff, government officials and other experts working with refugees or LGBTI persons. The research revealed that in Uganda and Kenya LGBTI refugees and those associated with them have been abducted, beaten and raped. Some have been forced to relocate their homes frequently in order to avoid the scrutiny and potential hostility of landlords, neighbors or other refugees who would harass, threaten or evict them if their sexual orientation or gender identity were discovered.
Based on its research, Human Rights First urges the United States to take the following steps:
- Protect LGBTI refugees from violence and assist victims of violence by supporting and encouraging the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), NGOs and others to document and report incidents of bias-motivated attacks against LGBTI refugees and provide assistance to victims as well as urge host states to protect LGBTI and other persons from bias-motivated violence.
- Develop a formal Expedited Resettlement Program or System to resettle refugees facing imminent risks of harm and urgent protection risksby dedicating specific staff to focus on expedited resettlement as their priority; expediting security checks in “emergency and “urgent” resettlement cases; providing refugee interviews and pre-screening rapidly in expedited cases; and issuing expedited resettlement guidelines for Resettlement Support Centers in each region.
- Enhance other emergency protection mechanisms by supporting scattered, safer shelter options for highly vulnerable refugees at risk and access to Emergency Transit Facilities located in other countries for LGBTI refugees facing imminent risks of harm.
- Improve general access to assistance and protection for LGBTI refugees by financially supporting and urging the U.N. Refugee Agency to prioritize improving access to protection and assistance mechanisms including:
- Work together with local NGOs to provide protection against violence, access to support such as health care for survivors of violence, access to safe shelter, as well as durable solutions and measures to stop discrimination from preventing LGBTI refugees accessing other existing services;
- Continue to revise and roll out key protection tools and guidance such as the Heightened Risk Identification Tool in order to identify and assist LGBTI refugees who face high risks; and issue guidance on working in countries with laws criminalizing same-sex conduct;
- Further the development and provision of ongoing training to address negative UNHCR and NGO staff attitudes towards LGBTI refugees and support training for UNHCR staff, government officials and adjudicators on sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for asylum; and
- Reform registration procedures and implement measures to reach out to LGBTI refugees to inform them of how and where to seek assistance.
In addition to the report’s recommendations for the United States, it also details recommendations for other governments, UNHCR and non-governmental organizations. Those recommendations seek to protect LGBTI refugees from violence and assist victims of violence, ensure at-risk LGBTI refugees have access to safe shelter, improve access to timely resettlement and expedited resettlement and improve general access to protection for LGBTI refugees.
“Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. We are pleased to be joining with leading LGBTI advocates to help the Administration realize in practice what it knows to be true: It’s a time for us all to recognize that no one should be discriminated against or subjected to violence because of who they are,” concluded Breen. “The steps outlined in this report take us closer to that reality.”