Special Refugee Programs for Gays Should Include Africans

Special refugee programs for gays should include all LGBTI people worldwide seeking to escape criminalization, harsh penalties and rampant persecution

By Melanie Nathan, December 01, 2014.

Obama we want asylumWhile Spectrum Human Rights continues to lobby the US Congress, the US State Department and the White House to establish a special refugee program for Russian LGBT people, we have yet to hear of anyone asking for similar programs for the African LGBTI community impacted by horrendous anti-homosexuality legislation in Africa and the state sanctioned persecution that has reached a high as a result of it.

The Russian group is lobbying for a program similar to the successful program back in the 70s-80s that helped Soviet Jews to immigrate to the USA,

Just like the scores of Russian gays seeking an asylum in the US right now, so are African gays trying to find ways to come to the U.S.A. and survive.  However getting here and the asylum process itself creates huge challenges. Once asylum seekers reach the USA they are unable to work for at least 6 months, and many do not have any means of survival.  There are no programs in place or direct services to help LGBT asylum seekers from Africa survive, while unable to work.Not to mention the difficulty in getting visas to reach our shores so asylum can be claimed. There is no asylum seeker visa. usually people outstay their visitor visa and then claim asylum.

According to Larry Poltavtsev, President of Spectrum Human Rights, a Russian LGBT Group in the USA:

“It makes no sense because most of our [asylum seekers] have advanced degrees and speak good English. They’re capable of being productive, paying taxes, but we are not letting them do those things while they’re waiting.“ (Associated Press, November 29, 2014)

As per Masha Gessen, a Moscow-born journalist and activist whose family moved to the U.S. in 1981 and who holds U.S. and Russian citizenship:

“There’s no worse way to immigrate to the U.S. than the way these people [asylum seekers] are doing it,” Gessen said. “You have nothing, and you have no right to work or public assistance. We’ve seen people end up on the streets.”

Having group refugee status would allow for an immigration process to go far easier than that faced by today’s asylum seekers who must prove their individual case.

We ask all our supporters to contact your US congressmen and senators and request them to approve the special refugee program for Russian LGBT people.

I am wondering if the good readers, when making that call on behalf of the Russian asylum seekers that we ask the same of the White House for our African LGBTI brothers and sister.  Unlike the Russian group, I am not seeing and LGBT Africans in exile doing much if anything in terms of lobbying something similar for Africa.   However let us face facts, I doubt that the African LGBT community will receive any favor, given the obvious pecuniary limitations compared to their Russian counterparts and the fact that  many may not have “advanced degrees”.


7 thoughts on “Special Refugee Programs for Gays Should Include Africans

  1. I totally agree with your main point: that programs for protecting LGBT people who are being persecuted should not be limited to any one country or region. However, let’s not forget the Middle East, Central America, Southeast Asia, other European regions… Also, you state ” There are no programs in place or direct services to help LGBT asylum seekers from Africa survive, while unable to work,” which is not correct. LGBT-FAN (www.lgbt-fan.org) is bringing several direct service groups (in DC, Chicago, New York City, Worcester MA, Bay Area) together and helping them develop, as well as doing advocacy — all on volunteer effort (since foundations are not giving to this cause yet). There is a list of direct service groups here: http://www.lgbt-fan.org/community-support/.

    Thank you for doing what you do. You are a great advocate, and I really value your work.

    1. Actually Max, really appreciate it and thanks. However I understand LGBT-FAN is indeed positioning itself to be helpful in tis arena. Though tere are no direct services for LGBTI asylum seekers that provide much needed shelter and food. Ihave yet to find a single organization that provides these comprehensive and much needed services. Some agencies have grants and government funding to deal with refugees who arrive via UNHCR for resttlement – but nothing for asylum seekers. LGBT FAN has not been able to provide me with anything in LA, DALLAS and San Francisco for the current asylum seekers who I have now. I need housing and food and medical help for 6 asylum seekers right now. I do not have it. I had to reach out by myself and finally found a few helpers along the way – who are themselves not well off members of the LGBT community as well as a few Church groups who have taken people in and it has all been a scramble and ad hoc, with no funding or security that the housing or food can endure beyond a week or a night at a time. So I disagree, while I know you are working very hard to try and put measures in place, there is no funding and directr services via any single LGBTI organization or group to help my current 6 asylum seekers, Yes Pro Bono legal is very easy to find for someone like me. – but not humanitarian needs.

      1. Hi Melanie — I really don’t want to argue with you, because I respect your work and we have lots of other people to argue with. We are pushing for the same things and we need to be on the same side. But when you say that there are not organizations that are helping LGBT asylum seekers from Africa with housing, food, and other basic necessities you are factually incorrect. The LGBT Asylum Support Task Force (Worcester, MA), Center Global at the DC Center for the LGBT Community (Washington, DC), Freedom House (Detroit), Center for Integration and Courageous Living and Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program (Chicago), and Housing Works (New York City) are all doing that. I have heard that the First UU Society of San Francisco is also getting into working with asylum seekers as well as refugees, although I don’t know the details. Yes, they all struggle for funding, and yes, they lack the support of big organizations and funders, and yes, we need to change that. But the fact that they are not helping the same people who you are helping, and are not contributing to your particular project does not mean that there are no organizations proving asylum seekers from Africa with housing, food, etc.

        1. This is not an argument Max. There is nothing right now for the following people. I have pursued everything., I will contact UU and see what they can offer. But as I type this no LGBT organizations have provided any relief on a humanitarian level for asylum seekrs. Like I said all we have is ad hoc faith based help. And it has to be sought out and it is hard to find. Your list on LGBT-Fan does not help my asylum seekers in the following major centers – Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Texa, and San Francisco Bay Area,. That is a matter of fact.

          Tonight I have a 29 year old lesbian asylum seeker with ad hoc night by night help and no PROGRAM at all – no agency that can take her in and provide everything she needs from shelter to food to medical to legal. She is on her on to find and happened upon me who is getting her hooked up with ad hoc gratuitous favors.

          So while tere may be services in the centers you outline – there is nothing set up other than willy nilly ad hoc in Major places such as Seattle , San Deigo, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Francisco.

          So seeing as it is okay in NYC and Boston and Chicago. I will send you an email today with all their details and perhaps you can refer these 6 ayless I have now to those centers for the 6 months help I am referring to. I will raise the money and get them flights there. Lets do it!

    2. Max,

      I have been to all the resources you provide on LGBT-FAN site and none can help the a asylum seekers who are currently seeking help from me:

      1) DC Center – The DC Center currently has 11 clients. They only provider $20 metro Card and $40 grocery voucher per client. I did not clarify if that is per month or one time. But no one can survive on that monthly. They “try and find” shelter by asking for volunteers on an ad hoc basis. They have no real funding to help LGBT asylum seekers, They do not have a specific program in place.

      2) HIAS – funds and supports refugee agencies and refugee programs only. Nothing available for Asylum Seekers:

      3) UU in San Francisco does not have an asylum program in place, It is also ad hoc and they rely on one man who provides his volunteer services trying to help people. They work with refugees. There is no specific asylum program in place that covers the needs of asylum seekers who arrive – they have helped a total of 3 people with some ad hoc volunteer services, according to the person I spoke to. Am pursuing further to see if they can provide more. BUT htere website does not provide any information for asylum seekers., So if someone links from LGBT-FAN it will take some savvy to figure out who and how to get help.

      4) Freedom House, Detroit, MI YOUR OWN WEBSITE says they are the ONLY organization to provide what is needed. This si what your website sayd:

      “Freedom House is a temporary home for survivors of persecution from around the world seeking legal shelter in the U.S. and Canada. It is the only organization in the country to provide comprehensive services (e.g. shelter, food, clothing, legal aid, medical and psychosocial care, ESL, financial literacy, offsite housing) free of charge.”

      Unfortunately MI is not a good place to send asylum seekers who have landed in LA or SF or Dallas. It will take about $450 per person to get them there. And is not my first choice as jurisdiction for some of the legal cases involved.

      So, bottom line – there are in truth NO services for asylum seekers in MOST of USA’s top Centers.

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