In order to truly become a global leader on the rights of LGBTQI+ people, Canada must support those fleeing persecution on the basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) by developing a policy on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) that includes Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).
In 2019, 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide due to “persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.” Of these, over 50% were IDPs. According to UNHCR, Iraq, South Sudan, and Syria have some of the largest numbers of IDPs. They are also home to some of the harshest laws and practices criminalizing homosexuality, where persecution on the basis of SOGIESC is overt and widespread.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this situation. Global efforts to contain COVID-19 through lockdowns and border closings have only compounded the impact on those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge. The pandemic continues to disproportionately affect LGBTQI+ individuals around the world. As commonly occurs during times of crisis, Rainbow Railroad has witnessed a spike in state-sponsored violence and persecution and in hostility from local communities who blame the novel coronavirus on LGBTQI+ people.
Particularly concerning are instances of police abuse and brutality enacted under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 quarantine measures. Though the overwhelming majority of forcibly displaced persons are IDPs, they are not entitled to the same international protections as those who seek refuge across international borders. While Canada continues to lead the way in global refugee resettlement, its policies do not include IDPs.
Canada must continue to be a leader in protecting the most vulnerable individuals globally by creating a dedicated IDP stream and by adopting a policy on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) that reaches in-country advocates.
You can read more about our requests for Canadian policy-makers here or below.