FROM THE FIELD: The plight of refugees persecuted for their sexual orientation

21 June 2020

Millions of people around the world are at risk because of their sexual orientation or sex characteristics. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has underlined the fact that, under international law, they must be protected as refugees. 

Subhi Nahas, a Syrian LGBTI refugee and his American partner
Subhi Nahas, a Syrian LGBTI refugee and his American partner , by UNHCR/Nick Otto

There are many reasons for LGBTI people to flee their countries. Sometimes they are victims of their government’s draconian laws. Other times they suffer at the hands of fellow citizens, or their own families, and their government stands idly by or even participates in the abuse.

Persecution comes in many forms: same-sex relations are considered illegal in more than 70 countries and, in some, punishable by death. Some nations have adopted laws that discriminate against LGBTI people, and in others, the authorities use vaguely written public indecency statutes to persecute LGBTI people.

There are also well-documented cases of governments that are unwilling or unable to protect LGBTI people from targeted violence at the hands of criminal gangs, for example, or even local police. People fleeing such conditions must be protected as refugees.

UNHCR has released answers to a series of frequently asked questions, on the subject of LGBTI refugees, which you can read here.


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