The shadows of LGBT refugees on a rainbow flag as they protest in front of the UNHCR office in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2019 | Photo: EPA/Dai Kurokawa
The shadows of LGBT refugees on a rainbow flag as they protest in front of the UNHCR office in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2019 | Photo: EPA/Dai Kurokawa

The UNHCR has called for a better treatment of LGBTIQ+ people forced to flee their homes. The UN Refugee Agency is currently holding a roundtable conference focused on protections for LGBTIQ+ refugees and displaced people against persecution and violence.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR on Monday launched an appeal, calling for better protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) people around the world who have fled violence or persecution and are seeking refuge inside their own countries or across borders.

"Forcibly displaced people who are LGBTIQ+, regardless of whether they fled specifically because of their gender identity, sexual orientation or sex characteristics, face a high risk of sexual abuse and violence, in many contexts receive little or no police protection and often face discrimination and other obstacles in trying to access basic services, such as health care and legal aid both on their journey and once they arrive at a destination," their statement read.

More protections for queer people

Monday (June 7) marked the opening of the 2021 'Global Roundtable on Protection and Solutions for LGBTIQ+ People in Forced Displacement', which will take place until June 29.

The conference -- which was convened by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi -- is the first UN-sponsored event on the topic since 2010, according to a statement issued by the UNHCR. Roughly 600 participants will take part in the roundtable, the UNHCR said.

"LGBTIQ+ people around the world face violence and discrimination from their governments, their communities and even from their own families," said Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection for the UNHCR and co-host of the event. "I hope that this roundtable will energize the international community to inspire more genuine protection for LGBTIQ+ people on the move."

LGBTIQ+ refugees/displaced people at high risk

"The work of addressing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity necessarily includes an intersectional perspective, within which refugees and asylum seekers are a population of fundamental concern for my mandate," said co-host Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who serves as the UN Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (UN IE SOGI). "This comprehensive and participative process will lead to the creation of a shared knowledge base from which stakeholders will be able to derive their strategic thinking."

A total of 69 countries currently criminalize same sex relationships and at least five nations have made them punishable by death, according to the UNHCR. Other countries have enacted laws that discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people or that allow authorities to persecute queer people.


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