By Melanie Nathan, April 19, 2012
The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) released its latest publication entitled ‘Rainbow Bridges: A Community Guide to Rebuilding the Lives of LGBTI Refugees and Asylum Seekers. ‘ This is the first guide of its kind directed at the United States lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and affirming communities.
The 48-page guide developed in a pilot project to resettle LGBT refugees in San Francisco, Rainbow Bridges offers practical step-by-step guidance on welcoming new refugees, ensuring their mental and physical well-being, and helping them find support in their new communities.
The guide is welcomed as indeed a guide to bridge the refugee experience once in the USA and could be used as a model for other parts of the world.
I would be remiss if I did not note that getting to a place of safety such as the USA remains the greatest challenge to those who have sought refuge based on persecution in their own countries, especially for the LGBTI communities considering that they are specific targets of harassment and persecution through assaults, rapes and tortured.
The publication acknowledges: “These pages would be starkly empty but for the courage of our clients and LGBTI refugees everywhere to survive the intolerable and overcome the insurmountable. Their perseverance and bravery are our inspiration. We have omitted their names to protect their privacy, but they fill every page, every line.”
It includes sample forms, a suggested code of conduct, and outlines the avenues for refugees to receive housing, employment, and federal assistance, all extremely challenging after having experienced the hardship of seeking asylum in the first place.
One hopes that this guide will help create awareness on all fronts of the issue – which includes the refugee experience before making it to safe shores as well as the difficulties in settling into the safe country.
International refugee laws and the asylum laws in the U.S.A. and UK does not provide a workable mechanism for persecuted LGBTI people to leave their countries and seek refuge in the U.S.A. or elsewhere.
In effect the refugee has to have left his/her country before help is generated and so many remain stuck in dire circumstances. The laws do not accommodate the multitudes, and the long arduous process only helps a fraction of those in need, especially given the recent spate of LGBTI persecution resulting from the criminalization of homosexuality in so many countries, especially on the African continent.
The pain of having to leave one’s homeland under these circumstances cannot be overstated; economic and social survival is difficult enough as an American in today’s America. Imagine trying to re-settle in the unknown vastness of this new land and as ORAM so aptly notes:
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI)1 refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable people in the United States today. Unlike most people who flee their homes for safety, these individuals often undergo the integration process almost entirely alone. They are rarely supported by their families or fellow expatriates. Because of their nonconforming sexual orientation or gender identity, they are often excluded from the religious and immigrant communities that form the social safety net for most newly arrived refugees and asylees. Without a support network, these LGBTI refugees struggle to find their way through a complex maze of employment, housing, and social service systems. Attaining stability in their adopted new country is extraordinarily challenging for them.”
You can download the ORAM publication here – http://oraminternational.com/en/publications
The magnificent artwork is attributed to San Francisco gay artist Marconi Calindas.