LGBT refugees in Syria ‘denied fair access’ to resettlement programmes
A report from a Parliamentary Select committee has warned that LGBT refugees may not be adequately safeguarded in Syria.
The terrorist group known as Daesh/Islamic State has publicly executed dozens of gay men across Iraq and Syria, with local LGBT communities often forced to flee for their lives.
Amid worsening conditions in war-torn Syria, a number of countries including the UK have committed to taking LGBT Syrians through resettlement schemes.
However, a report today from Parliament’s International Development Committee identified LGBT refugees from Syria as some of the most vulnerable due to the extreme violence and discrimination.
The Committee observed that after fleeing their homes, LGBT refugees are frequently ostracised – and struggle to access even basic services.
The US, Canada and the UK have all confirmed that LGBT Syrians will be among those protected across their resettlement schemes – but the report found that under-registration remains an issue.
MPs warned: “The risks faced by anyone that has been forced to flee their home are substantial. However, in the context of the Syrian crisis, certain groups are affected in ways that heighten their vulnerability.
“We commend the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and their commitment to ensuring that processes for identifying the vulnerable are robust in an extremely complex environment with significant operational challenges.
“Yet evidence indicated non-registration by certain vulnerable groups, who prefer to stay outside official UN camps, is occurring and that, despite best efforts, it appears that under-registration may well also be an issue.”
It adds: “Some Syrian refugees, particularly those from the LGBT community, are vulnerable because they do not have access to emotional and financial support networks. These networks are key in maintaining a refugee’s physical and mental well-being.
“The criminalisation of same-sex sexual acts in host countries, for example Lebanon’s ‘morality laws’, contributes to the prevalence of homophobia and transphobia.
“There is evidence that this can result in LGBT refugees being ostracised from these vital sources of support.”
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Responding to the report, Paul Dillane of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group said: “This significant report echoes many of the serious concerns we have expressed to the Government directly.
“LGBT refugees are some of the some vulnerable given the grave dangers many experience in refugee camps and places of displacement. Resettlement is often the only durable solution to guarantee their safety.”
“However, many LGBT refugees are too afraid to come forward to ask for help in case their sexuality or gender identity becomes known publicly.
“This is especially the case in countries like Jordan and Lebanon where homophobia and transphobia is rife.
“For instance, recent research found 56% of LGBT Syrian refugees reported being physically assaulted in Lebanon and 54% sexually abused. 40% expressed significant concerns about registering with UNHCR’.
“Based on the current approach, LGBT refugees are increasingly likely to be denied fair access to the UK’s resettlement scheme despite being some of the most needy. We call on the Government to urgently act to address these concerns.”