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LGBTQ+ refugees on the rise as they seek safer, more accepting nations

About 70 countries criminalize same-sex intimacy.
LGBTQ+ refugees on the rise as they seek safer, more accepting nations
Posted at 1:13 PM, Jun 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-20 13:13:18-04

This World Refugee Day, the number of LGBTQ+ refugees is on the rise.

The international day celebrates individuals fleeing their native countries to escape conflict or persecution, and the gay community is no exception. 

As it stands, about 70 countries criminalize same-sex intimacy. 

This includes countries like Uganda, which punishes homosexual sexual activity with life imprisonment, claiming it goes "against the order of nature." Uganda's anti-gay laws even include the death penalty in cases of "aggravated homosexuality," which is described as sexual relations involving people infected with HIV as well as with minors and other categories of vulnerable people. 

Anti-gay laws exist throughout countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific, according to the Human Dignity Trust.

SEE MORE: Uganda president signs anti-gay law with death penalty in some cases

"In recent years, the number of 2SLGBTQI+ refugees has risen dramatically," Sén. René Cormier of Canada said on Twitter. "On this World Refugee Day, I salute the NPOs that work tirelessly to relocate them to safe countries." 

Cormier praised organizations like Rainbow Railroad, which helps bring LGBTQ+ refugees to safety in other nations. Rainbow Railroad says 4,106 individuals have requested help from its organization since Jan. 1.

Earlier this month, the Canadian government and Rainbow Railroad announced a new partnership to allow more LGBTQ+ refugees to safely resettle in Canada.

But even when they reach countries of asylum, these refugees are more at risk of facing gender-based violence. 

LGBTQ+ refugees often "live for years in legal limbo, waiting on decisions from adjudicators who do not know that refugee status may be granted based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Living without recognized status increases their risk of targeted violence, trafficking, and exploitation," said HIAS, a nonprofit helping guide migrants to safety.

But it's not just the LGBTQ+ community that's seeing a rapid rise in refugees — it's the world as a whole.

The United Nations' refugee agency announced the greatest number of forcibly displaced people ever recorded.

SEE MORE: 108 million people were forcibly displaced in 2022, UN report says

By the end of 2022, 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced, the United Nations said. But that number has been pushed up to 110 million as of May amid recent conflict, namely in Sudan.

The United States plans to welcome 125,000 refugees next year, which has not been achieved in three decades, according to President Joe Biden.

"The United States continues to be the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance for refugees worldwide — including health care, clean water, and education, in partnership with international and non-governmental partners, to tens of millions of refugees and the communities hosting them around the world," President Biden said in a statement.

He said the U.S. will "work with the World Bank and the United Nations to strengthen refugee inclusion around the world."


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