The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) has just released the first-ever guide to welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people fleeing persecution in their home countries. As increasing numbers of these refugees flee to the United States, ORAM produced the guide for the American LGBT community and other groups willing to aid displaced LGBTI individuals. ORAM is the only organization focused exclusively on helping vulnerable LGBTI refugees worldwide find safety and rebuild their lives in welcoming communities.
Rainbow Bridges, a 48-page guide developed in a pilot project to resettle LGBT refugees in San Francisco, offers practical, step-by-step guidance on welcoming new refugees, ensuring their mental and physical well-being, and helping them find support in their new home country. It includes sample forms and a suggested code of conduct and outlines avenues for refugees to receive housing, employment, and federal assistance.
“There are immediate ways those of us in the U.S. can support members of our LGBT community facing persecution overseas,” said Neil Grungras, Executive Director of ORAM. “Uniting in support of queer asylum seekers and refugees is a powerful way of building community and reversing homophobia.”
ORAM estimates that the U.S. receives about 2,000 refugees a year who are fleeing persecution based on their gender orientation or identity, representing 6 percent of all refugees in America. Unlike other displaced migrants, those who are LGBT or intersex often undergo the integration process alone, shunned by religious and immigrant communities that form the safety net for most newly arrived immigrants, especially refugees and asylees. Rainbow Bridges can help LGBT, faith-based, and other communities welcome and support these individuals as they build new lives in the United States.
“LGBT refugees need a different reception for our differences and culture. If I were not gay, I would have easily been accepted into the African-American community and offered the services I needed; instead I faced further discrimination and restricted resources,” said Buchi Miles-Tuck, a gay asylee from Nigeria who fled two days before he was going to be killed. “If you have support from the LGBT community, you can get off the plane and experience how to be free in your own skin.”
Originally posted on the Huffington Post, April 23, 2012.