Rainbow Railroad seeks a partnership with the Government of Canada that will allow the organization to immediately refer vulnerable LGBTQI+ individuals for resettlement in Canada.
Over the last several years we have witnessed Canada’s commitment to prioritizing LGBTQI+ refugees, including introducing the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership, as well as making inroads on gender recognition on passports. While these are crucial developments, they are not enough to support LGBTQI+ persons facing immediate persecution and in need of refugee resettlement in Canada. This is because LGBTQI+ individuals face insurmountable barriers at every stage of the existing refugee process. As an LGBTQI+ organization with over 15 years of experience helping LGBTQI+ people the world over find safety, we know where the individuals with the most urgent protection needs are, and how to reach them, and implore the Government of Canada to make a historic commitment to partner with us. We’re seeking a referral partnership similar to the refugee stream for human rights defenders to help LGBTQI+ persons resettle in Canada.
Why this is important
Where legal protections for LGBTQI+ people do not exist, and where countries actively persecute the community, people face unimaginable human rights violations including killings, torture, arbitrary detention and widespread discrimination in access to health care, education, employment and housing. In recent years, we have seen an unsettling number of state-sponsored “crackdowns,” specifically targeting larger groups of LGBTQI+ persons. In these cases, human rights defenders and grassroots organizations are lifelines to individuals at risk, and in so doing, often become victims of violence themselves. The result is an environment where the only option is to evacuate.
But neighbouring countries are not safe havens and often exhibit similar patterns of anti-LGBTQI+ violence and discrimination. For example, LGBTQI+ Rwandans often seek safety in Uganda, which also discriminates against LGBTQI+people. When LGBTQI+ people do flee across borders to neighbouring countries, refugee camps are often dangerous places for them. LGBTQI+ asylum seekers are often barred from gaining refugee status determination, and state and civil society organizations that support refugees in these countries are often unresponsive or actively hostile to LGBTQI+ refugees.
While some people are able to flee, many factors prevent persecuted LGBTQI+ people from even leaving their country, leaving them internally displaced. Many LGBTQI+ people cannot turn to family for practical assistance, and lesbians and trans people may not be allowed to leave their homes without the support of male relatives. LGBTQI+ asylum seekers are systematically excluded from the labour market, severely limiting their ability to cover travel costs associated with escape. Trans women face a disproportionate risk of entrapment into sex trafficking. These individuals may face surveillance and threats from gangs, making the prospect of escape extremely difficult. In addition, trans people are also often unable to access travel documents that align with their gender, and trans, gender diverse and intersex people face heightened scrutiny at borders. Bisexual persons are often forced to conceal their identity in order flee, and for people who marry and start a family, they may be forced to flee without their children.
These are just some of the reasons why a referral partnership is important and why the partnership needs to address the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.
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