LGBTIQ+ refugees wave pride flags and hold up signs during a pride march in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
© UNHCR/Tim Mai Tan

LGBTQIA+ Refugees

The UN Refugee Agency strives to protect LGBTQIA+ refugees and displaced people.

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No one should have to flee their home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strives to protect people forced to flee conflict, disaster or persecution - including LGBTQIA+ refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people.

Here are some facts you may not know about LGBTQIA+ refugees:

  • In many countries, LGBTQIA+ people are persecuted. In certain countries, same-sex relationships are criminalised - sometimes punishable by death.
  • LGBTQIA+ people may flee as a direct result of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Others may have to escape for different reasons, such as conflict or natural disaster.
  • LGBTQIA+ people are at heightened risk of exclusion, exploitation, violence and abuse - even in countries of asylum.
  • LGBTQIA+ people may struggle to find safe accommodation, appropriate healthcare, education, work and other essential services.
  • Barriers to humanitarian aid are especially high for people whose affirmed gender identity doesn't match official documents.

UNHCR is working to ensure LGBTQIA+ refugees and displaced people can find safety and protection without discrimination.

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How is UNHCR helping?

UNHCR identifies the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ refugees face and helps them find safety and protection wherever possible. 

UNHCR is working to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people have:

  • Safe and appropriate reception and care
  • Help accessing asylum procedures, government-run services and other aid services
  • Protection from harassment, physical harm and gender-based violence
  • Legal counselling or representation, including information on seeking asylum on the basis of SOGIESC-related persecution
  • Safe, confidential and appropriate mental health counselling and psychosocial support
  • Safe, confidential and appropriate medical care, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, gender-affirming hormone treatment, support for menstruating or pregnant transgender men, and surgery or treatment for HIV-related health conditions
  • Access to appropriate work opportunities
  • Specific protection when they are at heightened risk, sometimes including access to local LGBTQIA+ support groups and expedited resettlement

Miral and Nouran

Miral and Nouran were forced to flee their home in Egypt after they announced their engagement.

Although close friends were supportive, they began receiving death threats once the news spread. When Miral’s father discovered the news, he threatened to kill her. Nouran fled when her family attempted to send her to a mental hospital.

Now safe in Canada, the couple has participated in the “Am I Wrong to Love?” exhibition, which highlights the stories of LGBTQIA+ refugees. Nouran says she wants to share her story so that she can challenge the stigma around LGBTQIA+ refugees.

“I want to tell the world that I’m not ashamed of being a refugee. This is my story. This is my life.”

“I want to tell the world that I'm not ashamed of being a refugee. This is my story. This is my life.”

After announcing their engagement, Miral (left) and Nouran were forced to flee Egypt. They now live in Canada.

Canada_LGBTQI refugees fled persecution in Egypt for Canada

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