Immigration, Migration, and Refugee Activists in the LGBTQ Community

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Issues around immigration, migration, and refugees are very prominent in the LGBTQ community. This results from the high level of activity in these areas around the world together with the added discriminatory policies targeting the community itself in many countries. LGBTQ persons may be forced to flee and seek refugee status because they fear being persecuted based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics in their home country.

Statistics are hard to come by. However, in the United States, the Williams Institute estimates that 3% of the 1.3 million total refugees and immigrants living in the country identify as LGBTQ. In Canada, 2,371 (or 13 per cent) of all 18,221 asylum decisions made between 2013 and 2015 were based, mainly, on sexual orientation. In the European Union there are no official statistics on the number of asylum claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has programs directed specifically to the LGBTQ community and the challenges it faces. The organization works with partners to provide inclusive services, protect their rights and identify safe options.

The individuals involved with these issues within the LGBTQ community include lawyers, activists, politicians, academics, and journalists. Refugees and immigrants rely on these LGBTQ individuals to provide assistance with food, lodging, mental and physical health services, social services, and much more. Many refugees and immigrants continue to receive discrimination and isolation after they have fled their home countries, or need to seek services to obtain residency and citizenship status. Refugees often talk about being forgotten twice - once in their home countries, and a second time in their adopted countries.



  • Pascal Smet, former Commissioner General for refugees and stateless people




Great Britain





  • Jesus Vasquez, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees



  • Subhi Nahas, activist with ORAM - Organization for Refugee, Asylum, and Migration

The Netherlands


United States

See Also

Further Reading/Research

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