The government has confirmed that LGBT refugees in Syria will be among ‘at risk’ groups eligible for resettlement in the UK.
The PM confirmed in September that the UK would take in 20,000 refugees from the Syria conflict over the next five years – with vulnerable refugees selected from camps in the region.
As the government puts plans together for its Resettlement Scheme, Labour’s Mary Creagh has called for vulnerable LGBT refugees to be given priority alongside other at-risk groups.
After Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven also raised the issue in Parliament, the Home Office this week confirmed that the “vulnerability criteria” for the process will take into account sexual orientation and gender identity.
Home Office minister Lord Bates said: “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR’s) vulnerability criteria for identifying refugees under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme include persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBTI refugees are identified through their normal screening procedures.
The vulnerability criteria include “survivors of violence and/or torture; refugees with legal and/or physical protection needs; refugees with medical needs or disabilities; children and adolescents at risk; persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity; and refugees with family links in resettlement countries.”
The terrorist group know as Daesh/Islamic State have publicly executed dozens of gay men across Iraq and Syria, with local LGBT communities often forced to flee for their lives.
Paul Dillane of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, said: “This is welcome news, UKLGIG has been calling on the UK Government to commit to resettling and protecting LGBTI refugees from Syria for some months.
“Resettlement is often the only durable solution to guarantee the safety of LGBTI people due to the grave dangers many experience in refugee camps and places of displacement.’
“It is vital the UK authorities confirm what steps they are taking to identify vulnerable LGBTI refugees, especially in countries like Jordan and Lebanon where LGBTI people face significant dangers.
“Many will be too afraid to come forward to ask for help in case their sexuality or gender identity becomes known publicly. It is critical they are processed in a secure manner.
“LGBTI refugees who are resettled in the UK are likely to be traumatised and isolated, many will have been rejected by their families and communities.
“It is essential that provision is made for their specific needs. UKLGIG is committed to working with the Government to ensure this scheme provides real protection for LGBTI refugees.”
Lord Scriven said: “These are welcome words from the Government and are an indication of the terrible treatment of LGBTI people in Syria.
“However, warm words are not enough.
“I am still concerned about the lack of planning, support and arrangements to deal sympathetically and effectively with LGBTI people fleeing torture and terror and to ensure a smooth and safe resettlement.”
Canada’s government also recently confirmed plans to take in LGBT refugees.