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.
While 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”.