WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, in partnership with the LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network (LGBT-FAN), and the National LGBTQ Task Force, will introduce an essential new guide, Stronger Together: A Guide to Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers, during an event at HRC’s Equality Center.
Stronger Together provides crucial advice and guidance to service providers working with LGBT asylum seekers coming to the United States in search of better, safer lives.
“As LGBT people face violence and threats abroad, some are making the difficult decision to leave everything and everyone they know and love to apply for asylum in the U.S. But when they arrive in the U.S., they often learn that gaining asylum can be a painful, alienating process,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “This guide sends an important message: the experience of LGBT asylum seekers in America matters. It is not enough to simply open our doors, we must do so with respect, compassion, and a desire to honor their experience.”
Every year, thousands of LGBT people flee to the United States (U.S.) from home countries where they face persecution and violence because of who they or whom they love. However, once arriving in the US, LGBT asylum seekers frequently face the daunting task of building new lives in what can be an unfamiliar and often hostile environment.
“Getting asylum is not the end of a journey, it is the beginning of an adaptation process to a new life—just without the fear of being legally rejected,” said Gabriel Rivas, Stronger Together contributor and asylee from Colombia.
“The guide will serve as a tool for groups serving asylum seekers, to consolidate action so as to better serve the community,” said Nikilas Mawanda, a Ugandan activist and asylee who also contributed to Stronger Together. “LGBTQI asylum seekers and asylees should be leaders in this work. They are experts on their own stories and needs, and can use their expertise to serve their own community.”
Asylum seekers who are LGBT often face barriers that others do not. They may continue to face homophobia or transphobia, often arrive in the U.S.without family support, and may be rejected or ignored by organizations that might be helpful to non-LGBT asylum seekers. Even well-meaning individuals could inadvertently undermine the wellbeing of LGBT asylum seekers by providing incorrect or inappropriate advice. Stronger Together offers service providers information on how best to help newcomers adjust, including advising on employment counseling, access to housing, and where to seek legal representation. The guide focuses on assisting service providers in empowering LGBT asylum seekers.
“It is wonderful that people in the U.S. want to support LGBT asylum seekers” said Siobhán McGuirk, Stronger Together co-author. “It is important that this movement develops in ways that respect the diversity, agency, and views of LGBT asylum seekers and asylees, while also contributing to the wider immigration justice movement. Stronger Together reflects that aim. Over a hundred people contributed to this project, including LGBT asylum seekers and asylees, service providers, lawyers, researchers, and activists.”
“Every year, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) immigrants and asylum seekers come to the U.S. fleeing persecution, death threats or unsafe and inhumane conditions without any family ties and with the hope of freedom, justice, and equality. In at least 75 countries around the world, LGBTQ people face criminalization, imprisonment, and death simply because of who they are and love,” said Stacey Long Simmons, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the National LGBTQ Task Force. “Because of our nation’s broken immigration system, too many LGBTQ immigrants and asylum seekers continue to face formidable barriers when attempting to access the promise of America. We are proud to partner with LGBT-FAN and HRC Foundation in publishing Stronger Together, which will help serve as an invaluable resource for organizations providing services to LGBTQ immigrants and asylum seekers.”
The situation for LGBT people around the world varies widely. As LGBT equality advances in some places, people continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution and violence around the world.
· An estimated five percent of U.S. asylum claims are based on persecution of sexual orientation or gender identity, suggesting that the U.S. would have received 4,802 applications citing anti-LGBT persecution in 2014.
· In 10 countries worldwide, same-sex activity is punishable by death, and 75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships. Hundreds of transgender individuals have been brutally murdered in the last year.
· In a growing number of countries, governments have sought to silence equality advocates and organizations with so-called “anti-propaganda” laws and legislation.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
LGBT-FAN is dedicated to helping people who are seeking safety in the U.S. because of persecution of their sexual orientation or gender identity in their home countries. We are asylum-seekers and people who have already gained asylum, LGBT rights activists, faith leaders, LGBT community center staff, policy experts, scholars, and refugee resettlement workers who feel called to this work by our diverse backgrounds.
The National LGBTQ Task Force works to secure full freedom, justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. For over forty years, we have been at the forefront of the social justice movement by training thousands of organizers and advocating for change at the federal, state, and local level. www.thetaskforce.org