Life is hard enough for refugees that arrive in Europe by boat. But life for an LGBT refugee is extraordinarily more difficult.
As the Washington Post reports: “Gay asylum seekers — facing official persecution in nations like Iran and Uganda — have been fleeing to Europe for years. But experts now estimate a record number of gays and lesbians seeking asylum, as many as 50,000, will arrive this year in Germany, the European nation accepting the largest number of refugees. Rather than leaving specifically because of gay persecution, many are now simply joining the tide of humanity fleeing violence and war in nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
For most refugees, arriving to Europe brings a sense of relief — despite the rigorous journey that lays ahead. For LGBT refugees though, being alone and exposed in camps that provide few moments of privacy can be even more harrowing. Many face discrimination, verbal and physical abuse, and harassment from fellow refugees. Statistics are scant but rights groups told the Washington Post that three to six cases of sexual harassment are reported each week. It wouldn’t be presumptuous to say more go unreported. Some of these refugees have been removed from shelters in order to avoid physical violence.
Many of these refugees come from countries like Syria and Afghanistan where homosexuality is not yet widely accepted. Anthony Faiola addressed this point in his recent article on LGBT refugees: “…it is difficult to paint refugees, as any segment of society, with a totally broad brush, and opinions among them regarding gays and lesbians differ widely and are often very nuanced.” Much like American culture, opinions differ person to person. But the LGBT refugee community remains one of the most unprotected of all refugee communities.
“These vulnerable refugees have so much to give the world, but time is running out,” LGBT refugee advocate Subhi Nahas wrote in the Independent in September. “They need all nations of conscience to open their doors as wide as they can and protect them.”