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Insights: Failed Travel and Barriers to Seeking Asylum

Insights: Failed Travel and Barriers to Seeking As... Insights: Failed Travel and Barriers to Seeking As...

We’re highlighting insights from our 2022 Annual Report, Understanding the State of Global LGBTQI+ Persecution. To read more of our insights, you can access the full report here.

Insights: Failed Travel and Barriers to Seeking Asylum

Between 2018 and 2022 we noted over 30 cases of  “failed travel” for individuals as we attempted to move them to safer locations. 

Due to systemic barriers in global border infrastructure, certain groups are disproportionately targeted for denial of boarding. The term “failed travel” refers to situations in which airline officials, private security guards, and other non-state agents prevent the cross-border movement of persons seeking access to asylum. Airlines are incentivized to reject travelers from boarding, even those with legal documents, because governments impose steep fines or suspend airlines’ licenses if the state ends up deporting someone who is later deemed inadmissible. 

Airlines do not have the training, capacity or authority to ensure that people will not be harmed if they are denied boarding. Denials by carriers are applied selectively and inconsistently, allowing some individuals to pass through airports freely while prohibiting others from boarding flights. This system lacks safeguards to ensure that people are protected from discrimination, including discrimination based on national, ethnic, or racial origin and gender identity and expression.

There are many settings in transit countries outside of airports where LGBTQI+ people seeking safety face additional barriers.  LGBTQI+ refugees who are living in camps in countries that are not supportive of their rights face systemic discrimination, including barriers to accessing refugee status determination, as well as violence and harassment from local communities and other refugees. Humanitarian protection agencies, which are responsible for identifying the most vulnerable and connecting them with pathways to refuge, can miss necessary cultural and linguistic norms to meaningfully understand LGBTQI+ related persecution or even subject LGBTQI+ people to discrimination. LGBTQI+ persons coming from contexts where their diverse SOGIESC is a factor in their persecution may not readily identify themselves as LGBTQI+ due to their fears of being threatened with violence if their identities are known. 

Rainbow Railroad works closely with LGBTQI+ host community and asylum seeker networks, mapping LGBTQI+ inclusive service providers and community spaces so that we can respond to urgent protection needs, including food, medicine and safe shelter. We also advocate with governments to open pathways to find durable solutions for those who are most vulnerable. We need to work both within and outside of the international protection system to leverage creative solutions which build on the resiliency and courage of our case individuals.

To read more of our insights, you can access the full report here.