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LGBTI Refugees

In recent years, a global discussion has finally arisen about the rights of LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, especially those fleeing regimes which tolerate – and in many cases support and perpetuate – violence and discrimination against LGBTI people. Yet this discussion has only just broken through into the mainstream. At the same time, LGBTI people are facing renewed crackdowns on their basic human rights: to assemble, to express themselves, to form communities, to seek justice and to live.

This wave of repressive laws, policies and violence, comes on the back of an already stark picture: We live in a world in which 81 countries outlaw same sex relationships; 10 of them with the death penalty. LGBTI individuals are among the most persecuted social groups in the world today, with many victims of violence, harassment, persecution, torture, imprisonment, extortion and execution. On top of this, many people in communities around the world, live unable to show their faces, seek redress or organise to combat impunity for their aggressors.

Yet, at the same time, many democratic governments have set themselves on the road to ensuring full equality for LGBTI people. Increasingly, governments with a progressive record on LGBTI rights at home, are being called upon by human rights defenders, and the general public, to honour those commitments abroad, and in their migration laws and policies. If LGBTI rights are recognised as human rights, as many affirm, that should include concrete commitments to recognise the rights of LGBTI migrants as equal to any other kind of human group fleeing persecution.

Since 2014, May 17 has begun to emerge as a key moment for activists to raise questions about the rights of LGBTI refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Since its inception, it has also remained a key moment for all to fight at the root of this problem- to create a world in which LGBTI people don’t have to flee persecution in the first instance.

Below, we list just a few ideas for action and links to further resources.

Take Action

Join the IDAHOT LGBTI Refugees, Asylum & Migrations working group on facebook, where activists interested in organising around these questions for May 17, and beyond, are discussing and planning.


Documentary Films and Animations on LGBTI Refugees

No Place for Me: The Struggles of Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees

gay-refugee-from-DRCNo Place for Me describes the difficult challenges that urban gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees face in Mexico, Uganda and South Africa, in their own powerful and authentic voices. Informed through personal interviews with LGBTI refugees and accounts from their service providers and contextualized with striking footage of South African townships, this documentary gives insight to the exclusion, violence, and shame experienced by this community within their homes, society, and supposed support systems. These are the stories of Ibrahim, Aldo, Kintu, Rachel, Tendai, Pardon, Tiny, Talkmore, Junior, and Vicky and Taffy

English subtitles
10-min preview:
full 28-min film:

As I Am: Understanding the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity of Refugees

Picture 221As I Am was developed to help prepare NGOs, UNHCR and government staff who interact with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees and asylum seekers. Through sensitization and training, we can learn to carve out safer space for LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers to come out of hiding long enough to seek protection. These are the stories of Ibrahim, Aldo, Kintu, Rachel, Tendai, Pardon, Tiny, Talkmore, Junior, and Vicky and Taffy.

English subtitles
full 22-min film:

Nowhere to Run “Paul’s Story” and other narratives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Refugees

Nowhere to Run chronicles the challenges LGBT refugees face around the world.

Picture 222Paul’s Story: In Jamaica, Paul falls in love with a male classmate and they start dating. When Paul and his boyfriend spend time together in the public market, the community harasses the two lovers. After Paul and his boyfriend are spotted having romantic relations, community members kill Paul’s boyfriend and Paul tries to flee to safety in the United Kingdom.
Video link (EN):


Picture 223Lukela’s Story: Lukela, a lesbian in Zimbabwe, secretly dates a girl whom she met while playing soccer. One day while walking home from a café, a group of men see Lukela and her girlfriend kissing and they violently attack the two women. While one man rapes Lukela, her girlfriend protests and she is killed. In fear, Lukela escapes to South Africa, yet she finds little refuge in her new host country.
Video link (EN):


Picture 224Marwan’s Story: Marwan is a homosexual Iraqi man. As Marwan he walks in the street with his partner, a group of men brutally beat the two lovers, invades Marwan’s lover’s home and shoots him in front of his mother. Marwan reports the violence to the police, yet officials ignore his pleas. Marwan flees to Syria, yet his reasons for exile are not accepted.
Video link (EN):


Picture 225Naheed’s Story: Naheed is a lesbian living in Iran. After her father spies on her and her girlfriend embracing, he hits Naheed and calls the police. In fear of being executed, Naheed and her partner attempt to leave the country for Turkey, yet her girlfriend is arrested at the border. In Turkey, Naheed struggles to get by in her new home, which contains just as much discrimination against her sexual orientation as her previous home.
Video link (EN):

Safe Space Materials
“You are safe here” poster in 18 languages.

oram_you-are-safe-here-poster_sdArabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Turkish, Urdu

SD version (JPG – 223 Kb)

HD version (PDF- 1.8 Mb)





“LGBT Refugees deserve our protection” posters

Web page:

oram-LGBT-refugees-deserve-protection-gay-SD oram-LGBT-refugees-deserve-protection-lesbian-SDoram-LGBT-refugees-deserve-protection-transgender-SD








SD Versions

Publications and Guides

February 2013
Blind Alleys: The Unseen Struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Urban Refugees in Mexico, Uganda and South Africa






June 2012
Opening Doors: A Global Survey of NGO Attitudes Towards LGBTI Refugees & Asylum Seekers.
Picture 226





April 2012
Rainbow Bridges: A Community Guide to Rebuilding the Lives of LGBTI Refugees and Asylees.
Picture 228