Protecting the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Posted by Elizabeth Drew
October 6, 2010
People Increase Awareness of LGBT Issues

About the Author: Elizabeth Drew is a Special Assistant for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

The stakes for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees and asylum seekers are high: many people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity encounter violence and abuse in the countries they've fled to, where they remain invisible and at risk, often isolated from even community-based support.

The Obama Administration continues to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes elimination of violence and persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I represented the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) at a roundtable in Geneva on this theme last week. The roundtable, the first of its kind, will result in enhanced policy and operational guidance for staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at headquarters and in the field. A group of representatives of different governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics met from September 30-October 1, and -- despite the jetlag suffered by participants flying in the previous day from as far away as Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Canada and the United States -- we had a remarkably dynamic and productive discussion. We were especially pleased that UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller welcomed us to a reception after our first day of talks, reflecting the commitment of UNHCR's senior leadership on this issue.

I moderated a session on good practices and current initiatives, describing PRM's efforts to integrate and elevate this issue within our broader work, including our convening a working group with NGOs and other U.S .government offices on this issue and supporting a regional pilot program to build capacity to address LGBT protection challenges. The group welcomed U.S. leadership on this topic, and was appreciative of our public statements, including PRM Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz's speech at the State Department's LGBT Pride Month event in June. My government representative counterparts spoke about their efforts on this front, and NGO participants shared the innovative programming work they're doing in Kenya, Uganda and the Middle East, particularly in the area of staff training and sensitization.

Our group parted on Friday with both a renewed sense of urgency and ideas for a way forward.



Maryland, USA
October 6, 2010

Patrick in Maryland writes:

I believe people have a right to do, and be whatever they want. When it comes too,their own bodies. This is a freedom of expression, and everyone has a right too, it. As long as they aren't hurting anyone by doing it.:)

Great Posting,Elizabeth Drew. We are all Free People. :)

Arizona, USA
October 7, 2010

Louis in Arizona writes:

I am gay, and I oppose to gay bashing, but living in this world we know, is just a giving, if the us government wants to pursue this path in immigration I have many clients, people that has suffer and their families that witness, but, that is how life is. it is bad,but just because you made it here i don't think is fair for the rest of inmigrants to take a place on their behalf, and we all know Drama Queens to fake just for a ticket for their idol's concert, so for that .....not

United States
October 8, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

A student once wrote in huge black letters on a wall in a Culver City school, "Ms. Joan is Gay." After numerous other hateful experiences I left that school eventhough I was tenured. These are the sad and unfortunate experiences people go through on a daily basis in the "Land of the Free." It's painful to live in such an unjust place as America. As a nation, we need to take a long and critical look at ourselves before spouting platitudes to others.


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