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Asylum and Forced Migration

In recent years, a global discussion has finally emerged about the need to protect LGBTI forced migrants. Protection is particularly critical for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing regimes which tolerate – and in many cases support and perpetuate – violence and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. Yet this discussion has only just broken through into the mainstream. At the same time, in many parts of the world, LGBTI people are facing alarming attacks on their basic human rights: to assemble, to express themselves, to form communities, to seek justice and to live. This is how LGBTI refugees are created, and why we need to give voice and take action to help them navigate the international protection system, and find safe haven.


Arguments for Action!

… Because LGBTI refugees are discriminated against as migrants and sexual minorities.

In 76 countries, being homosexual or transgender is a crime. In many others – including destinations to which LGBTI migrants flee, it is fundamentally unsafe to be LGBT or I, or even to publicly speak on their behalf. In those countries, the fear of persecution perpetuated by communities and the government – and nourished by social stigma or cultural stereotypes – is an everyday struggle of LGBTI refugees. In countries of first asylum – where migrants seek refugee status or are temporarily resettled – the protection gaps of sexual and gender minority refugees vary widely; they depend on levels of cultural and political tolerance, stereotypical gender expression and sexual norms, recognition of LGBTI rights and equal treatment in the asylum process.

… Because the priority is to shorten and secure LGBTI refugees’ journeys.

What are the main challenges faced by LGBTI refugees on their long and chaotic migratory journey? Here are some key issues recent NGO studies have brought up:

  • LGBTI refugees often face discrimination and isolation from friends, family and home communities in countries of transit where they may stay several months or years, or in countries of asylum or resettlement where they have to start a new life.
  • In countries where they have fled, LGBTI refugees often lack access to appropriate and respectful processing of their asylum claims. When immigration officers and refugee professionals are not trained to be sensitive to sexual and gender identities, how can there be respectful practices when these officers assess the credibility of LGBTI status? This is particularly true in repressive contexts with conservative gender norms, where LGBTI individuals who don’t conform to local gender expectations are targeted for harassment
  • Thus, LGBTI migrants are more likely than others to be denied legal protection and refugee status, to endure abusive detention and disrespectful treatment, and to be at risk of being sent back to danger (refoulement).
  • In refugee camps – or even worse in detention centres – LGBTI people often face homophobia that is just as hostile as the violence they fled in their countries of origin. In these perilous conditions, barriers to appropriate medical and social services particularly affect LGBTI refugees who simply can’t rely on the broader refugee community. For non-LGBTI migrants, this is usually a primary and vital resource in a new country.
  • For the small number of lucky individuals who are finally granted international protection and get resettled in safe countries, LGBTI survivors still face daily challenges. They rarely succeed in having their same-sex partner join them, and they live in precarious conditions and unfriendly environments. Some migrants are fortunate to be welcomed by LGBTI-friendly groups or communities.

>> For more information about conditions of living of LGBTI refugees, check out the Readings section on bottom of page.


… Because there is still much to be done.

There are huge differences between regions of the world: some seek to better protect sexual and gender refugee minorities; others maintain or worsen punitive laws. Below are some key non-governmental organisations fighting for LGBTI refugee rights, as well as recent concrete steps taken at international and national levels:

Key Non-Governmental Organisations. There are multiple LGBTI-focused and/or refugee-focused actors that engage in important advocacy work, conduct field research, or provide legal advice and assistance to LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. Among them are:





Asia – Pacific




Here are some examples of institutional steps in recent years:


We have to speak for the voiceless.

Let’s take action! Here are some ideas to create your own event or to join the movement:

  • Join meetings and events organised by LGBTI-focused and/or refugee organisations,
  • Organise a film screening and a panel discussion with testimonies from refugee service providers and LGBTI organisations,
  • Disseminate NGO research publications, testimonies of LGBTI refugees, and documentary films on this topic,
  • Reach out to your personal and professional journalist and blogger contacts to raise awareness using the hashtag #LGBTIrefugees,
  • Promote and share articles and social media posts related to #LGBTIrefugees on Twitter and Facebook,
  • In safe countries, join a Refugee Assistance Program,
  • In countries where homosexuality or transgendered identities are criminalised or stigmatised, monitor conditions for LGBTI refugees.



Previous events

Pathways to Protection – Panel Discussion and Film Preview, organised by ORAM (USA)

Roundtable on LGBT Asylees, hosted by HRC (USA)

LGBTI Asylum Seekers: No Pacific Solution panel discussion, hosted by Young Liberty for Law Reform (Australia)

Première of Educational Film on Understanding the Sexual orientation and gender identity of refugees, hosted by ORAM at UNHCR Annual Consultation (Switzerland)


Further Readings, Videos and Resources





  • Sexual orientation and gender identity and the protection of forced migrants – Forced Migration Review – April 2013 – English/Spanish/French/Arabic





  • 124-Page Tool Written in Five Languages Provides Appropriate Terminology for People with Diverse Sexual Orientations & Gender Identities

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 14.52.43



Films and documentaries


  • “No Place for Me: The Struggles of Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees” – South Africa, Uganda, DR Congo, Sierra Leone – ORAM.


Preview English and French

Full film English French











  • “LGBT Refugees deserve our protection” posters

HD Versions

SD Versions





 Sans titre

SD Version


HD version (PDF- 1.8 Mb)


Author: Josselin Moreau – Date: 8 March 2015