A group LGBT people in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, on their way to ask for asylum to the United States | Photo: EPA/JOEBETH TERRIQUEZ
A group LGBT people in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, on their way to ask for asylum to the United States | Photo: EPA/JOEBETH TERRIQUEZ

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has launched a series of consultations to better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees. Consultations will take place over the next few months in different parts of the world.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, last week launched a series of consultations to identify ways of ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees are better protected and are able to seek justice and support when they experience violence and discrimination, the organization said in a statement.

The first round of consultations with LGBTI organizations and advocates was held on May 16 in Geneva. More consultations are scheduled to take place in different parts of the world in the coming months.

Grandi says 'we need to mobilize further'

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that UNHCR "has been working hard to ensure that LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees are protected wherever they are, but we need to mobilize further."

"This is why it is so important to hear from and join up forces with individuals and organizations that have expert knowledge on this issue," he said.

70+ countries consider same-sex relations a crime  

Over 70 countries worldwide still consider same-sex relations a crime, the UN agency said in the statement. Many LGBTI people experience severe human rights abuses and persecution in their home countries and are forced to seek safety and protection abroad. But they often face similar or even greater risks once they reach neighboring countries.

'Safe spaces for LGBTI refugees'

"It is vital that we create safe spaces for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees so they don't feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity in an effort to protect themselves," said Grandi, noting that over the past years UNHCR has invested in developing guidance, tools and training on LGBTI issues for its staff and partners.

The high commissioner said that there have been many encouraging examples in recent years, such as working with LGBTI leaders in Africa to enhance outreach and referral to services, building networks with employers to create livelihood opportunities for LGBTI refugees in the Americas, and establishing LGBTI youth support groups in the Middle East region.

"The fight for LGBTI rights is about each of us. It is about our diversity and our humanity. We should all play an active role in combating homophobia, transphobia and biphobia,'' Grandi said.

 

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