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LGBT refugees will suffer as US Supreme Court upholds ban

The US Supreme Court has today upheld President Trump’s ban on travel into the United States from a selection of Muslim countries, fulfilling one of his election promises after months of legal wrangling.

The ban claims to protect Americans, including from “those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”  It is likely, in fact, to prevent many individuals fleeing oppression because of their sexual orientation from reaching safety in the United States.

The President appeared pleased with the ruling (Twitter)

Leading US LGBT activists have expressed opposition to the strategy of using LGBT people as a justification for banning refugees and highlight the lack of evidence that refugees pose a danger to LGBT Americans. Homosexuality or homosexual acts are explicitly criminalised in over 70 countries, including six of the seven countries whose nationals are banned from entry through the executive order. LGBT people in Yemen, Sudan, Iran, and Somalia can face the death penalty. In all seven countries, LGBT people face a climate of societal and institutionalised homophobia. Many LGBT people are persecuted by multiple actors, including their families, state forces, and terrorist groups such as ISIS.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

LGBT people around the world are forced to flee their homes due to persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Because many of these individuals face rejection from their families, they flee alone and do not have a support system in the host countries where they await resettlement. They encounter rejection in refugee camps and institutionalised homophobia in host countries. In Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan—frontline host countries in the global refugee crisis—LGBT people face marginalisation and hostility. As in many parts of the world, transgender people are particularly vulnerable to violence. Due to the extreme risks and persecution that LGBT people face even in refugee-hosting countries, they are sometimes identified as vulnerable and in need of resettlement. Cases of homophobic attacks against LGBT refugees underscore the dangers they face in refugee-hosting countries.

In July 2016, a gay Syrian refugee was beheaded in Turkey. Prior to his murder, he had received threats and had been kidnapped and raped. Halting the refugee admissions programme — or the resettlement of refugees from Syria or other targeted Muslim majority countries — leaves vulnerable LGBT refugees awaiting resettlement to face violence, discrimination, and even death.


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Rob Harkavy

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