UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Canada, is calling for support for LGBTI refugees forced to flee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The launch of Pride Month in Toronto marks the kick-off of festivities scheduled throughout this summer across Canada in celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
Yet for millions of LGBTI people around the world, their sexual orientation and gender identity places their lives at risk on a daily basis, subjected to discrimination, persecution and violence.
For years, UNHCR has been protecting and finding solutions for LGBTI displaced and stateless people around the world. The UN Refugee Agency has trained its and partners’ staff and established networks of LGBTI refugees to ensure that its programs are safe and inclusive of LGBTI people.
UNHCR joined in the Pride festivities with a celebration of LGBTI refugees which took place on Sunday, June 17. The special event was co-hosted with our partners Trans Workforce and Oliver & Bonacini as a joint show of solidarity with LGBTQ refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people. A panel was held during the event, dubbed #RefugeesWelcome, to discuss the specific challenges faced by LGBTI refugees.
“It is is very difficult for them to come out about why they are leaving their homes,” said UNHCR Canada Representative Jean-Nicolas Beuze, also noting that 1.5 million refugees around the world who are in need of resettlement to a third country as a life-saving intervention.
“I am so grateful to Canadians who have extended warmth, compassion and kindness to refugees from all over the world, including me,” said Biko Beauttah, a Kenyan-born LGBTQ advocate and Founder of Trans Workforce, billed as the first job fair in Canada for people who identify as trans and gender non-conforming.
“I am so proud to call Canada home, and to have the chance to team up with UNHCR in celebration of LGBTQ people, and speaking out in support of all those who are so often forced to live their lives in the shadows.”
“No one should be forced to leave everything they love behind for the simple fact of being who they are,” said Beuze. “We each have an important role to play, and UNHCR is pleased to help bring the voices of LGBTQ refugees to the fore, for them to be listened to and incorporated into all aspects of our work.”