The LGBTI Caucus of the Refugee Congress
Established on December 15, 2013 by the following refugee congress delegates:
Beni Dedieu Luzau (Maryland), Carmen Kcomt (California), Cecilia Gentili (Honorary Delegate from New York), Farjam Benham (Virginia), Hari Nourila (Honorary Delegate from Washington), Jagat Acharya (Missouri), Omar Bah (Rhode Island) and Teewende Aime Sandwidi (Honorary Delegate from West Virginia).
Achieve the full enjoyment of human rights of LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers and stateless in the U.S. To serve as a resource for the Refugee Congress on LGBTI issues and working toward the elimination of hate – motivated violence , and the improved health and well being for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression
- Improve information collection on LGBTI refugees for better resettlement outcomes
By not adequately recognizing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, the resettlement program frequently fails to fulfill the holistic needs of LGBTI refugees, including the need for medical services, appropriate housing, or other services that address the specific effects of mental or physical torture that the individual experienced.
- Encourage the disclosure or self-identification of LGBTI refugees
Although information about person’s sexual orientation or gender identity may be known by UNHCR , particularly if it is the grounds for protection, this critical information frequently does not make it into the hands of those working with refugees later at the reception and integration stages.
- Cultural Competency for those dealing with LGBTI refugees is needed.
Good efforts were made by the U.S. Government through the Heartland Alliance Rainbow Welcome Initiative Project and through the Refugee and Asylum and International Operations LGBTI Training Module, to better sensitize and educate oversees processing and refugee resettlement agencies on how to work with LGBTI clients. However, the need to educate resettlement organizations case workers, ESL teachers, and others working with LGBTI refugee clients on issues related to gender identity or sexual orientation is ongoing. The relevant agencies should continue support programs that increase the competency of all those who encounter LGBTI refugees, whether that be at the local, national, or international context. Furthermore, we urge that LGBTI refugees be included in the design and implementation of such programs to help ensure that such programs can be relevant and effective.
- Bridging the LGBTI Refugees and the American LGBTI Community.
Unlike other forced migrant populations, LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S do not usually have the natural support of their ethnic community. Frequently, LGBTI persons or organizations in the community may have little experience or knowledge about the refugee’s history or refugee matters in general. Human Organizations with an LGBTI focus have been active speaking out about the persecution of LGBTI people at the international level (e.g. Gambia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Uganda, etc,) These same organizations, however, may be unconnected or unaware that some of those people adversely affected are now in the U.S as refugees or asylum seekers. If better bridges are built between refugee resettlement agencies and LGBTI organizations, LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers will be more likely to receive the appropriate assistance and guidance, making their transition to life in the U.S more successful.
- Hear our voices
The symposium on LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers organized on September 10, 2014 at Human Rights Campaign Headquarters in Washington, D.C. brought together refugees, asylum seekers from the LGBTI community along with representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. The symposium’s purpose was to identify key protection gaps and barriers facing LGBTI in the U.S Refugee Admissions Program. Guest Speaker: Congressman David Cecilline of the first district of Rhode Island and Co-Chair, LGBT Congressional Equality Caucus. Participants: 75.
- World Refugee Day-LGBTI Version
Theme: “LGBTI Refugees and Asylum Seekers Struggle for Integration.”
Date: June 18, 2015 – Venue: Human Rights Campaign, Washington, D.C.
Guests : Congressman Alain Lowental of the 47th district of California and Vice-
Chair, LGBT Congressional Equality Caucus and Robert Carey (Director, Office of Refugee Rresettlement). Participants: 85
- Human Rights Day with LGBTI Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Venue: Cannon House Office Building (Capitol Hill)
Guests: Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Kenneth Tota (Deputy-Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement). Participants: 35
- LGBTI Survey of the Refugee Congress
This is a voluntary about the resettlement experience of LGBTI refugees before and after arriving in the U.S. and was developed after consultation with UNHCR and Refugee Resettlement Agencies. The survey finding will be shared with government agencies (ORR and PRM) and organizations working with refugees to encourage a more welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTI refugees.
The website that is the landing page to the survey is http://www.refugeecongress.org/survey
- World Refugee Day – LGBTI Version
Date: June 16, 2016
Venue: Russell Senate Office Building – SR 188, Washington, D.C.
Speakers: Shelly Pitterman (UNHCR Regional Representative), Anastasia Brown (Director Division of Refugee Services – ORR), Timothy Eydelnant (Syrian Humanitarian Assistant Coordinator – PRM) and Bill Van Horne, the Chief Counsel for US Senator Benjamin Cardin). Participants: 60
- Bridging LGBTI Refugees and the Broader American LGBTI Community.
The pilot activities began in October2015 with the financial support from Church World Service and the International Rescue Committee to initiate dialogue and joint action between LGBTI community organizations and refugee service providers, and, in creating a strong platform for organizations from different sectors to identify and undertake joint actions that are needed. Community forums have been organized in Grand Rapids, Houston, Miami. Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Tacoma and San Diego. This program has helped enhance the ability of all community partners to extend welcome to LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers, and to ensure they may safely access community support in starting their lives in the U.S.