LGBTI refugees are facing sexual harassment, rape, and abuse in accommodation provided while applying for UK citizenship, Micro Rainbow International says.
In response, they are launching a new scheme to combat this opening safe houses exclusively for vulnerable LGBTI refugees.
Over a 1000 people come to the UK to seek asylum from the 70 countries that still criminalize being gay.
But some applying for citizenship face discrimination in the accommodation they stay in.
MRI’s Founder and CEO, Sebastian Rocca is calling the new project a missing link in the support they already offer.
‘Refugees are often housed with other asylum seekers from countries they fled from. They are often as homophobic as the ones who persecuted them back home,’ Rocca tells Gay Star News. ‘As a result, MRI receives regular reports of sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse. We are also aware that some reported even rape.’
One of the first refugees to stay in the house Maria, cried with relief when she got to the safe house.
‘I suffered physical and sexual harassment on a regular basis in the accommodation I was given as an asylum seeker. Someone threw a pot at me once.
‘I just could not sleep properly, I was always on the lookout for someone to try to hurt me.’
MRI says many LGBTI refugees opt to be homeless to avoid these terrifying situations. Rocca explains to GSN that this opens them up to more exploitation. However, it is difficult to track this because the abuse often comes from people they share accommodation with.
‘LGBTI asylum seekers often don’t report hate crimes because they fear that it would look bad on their case.’
The first house has space for just four people. But, a second safe house will open in December 2017.
MRI then hopes to be able to provide safe housing to over 150 LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees by 2019.
They still have to fight for the right to stay
Moud Goba, MRI’s Housing Project Manager explains how even when they are in the safe house – they still have a tough process to go through.
However, she says at least ‘they won’t have to worry about where to sleep safely’
One recent case left a Nepal gay man suicidal and left fearing for his life after being outed by a UK immigration tribunal.
The court did this despite the man’s anonymity order to protect his identity while applying for leave to remain.
MRI CEO, Sebastian Rocca finds this case unsurprising:
‘Several of MRI’s clients are outed by other straight co-nationals back home. As a result, their families are targeted and suffer violence from the community.’
In Nepal, though gay sex is not illegal the country remains a strictly conservative.
With this in mind, Rocca believes we all need to know more about the global LGBTI community.
‘We should not even assume that having equal marriage, for example, equals to LGBTI inclusion in that country.
‘Take Brazil for example, where there is a murder every 14 hours of an LGBTI person despite not having criminalizing laws; or South Africa, a country with one of the best pieces of legislation for LGBTI people and yet rape and murder of LGBTI people are common.
‘Together with the laws, we also need to change people’s hearts and minds.’