Words by Abi Scaife
Moving countries is hard enough when you aren’t in imminent danger - but things get even more complicated when you identify as LGBTQIA+.
Many asylum seekers are fleeing a country with homophobic or transphobic laws and practices, and have often been forced to hide their identity for their own safety.
But there’s one charity doing its best to make the transition easier on LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers. Rainbow Migration supports members of the community as they seek refuge in the UK.
“Coming to the UK was an escape,” said Manono, one of the people Rainbow Migration has helped over the years. “I have been here for 18 years now. I am happy with my girlfriend here. We feel safe and can live openly. “
Rainbow Migration isn’t just there to offer legal and logistical help. They know how hard it can be to find confidence when you have spent so long having to hide a part of who you are.
“Our Support Workers work with LGBTQI+ people to improve their self-esteem and confidence, reduce isolation, and help them access health services and housing,” said a spokesperson from the charity.
“They also offer emotional and practical guidance to LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, and support them through the asylum process, which can take months or even years.”
Rainbow Migration also does everything they can to make sure LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are placed with their partner, if they have one. The process of being granted asylum can be long and difficult, making it all the more important to have charities to lean on.
“To secure asylum, LGBTQI+ people must ‘prove’ their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to officials, and this can be very challenging,” said the spokesperson. “[The Home Office] want straightforward, traditional stories of ‘coming out’, but many of the LGBTQI+ people seeking safety here have had to live secret lives as they are fleeing dangerous and homophobic communities.”
30 years of supporting others
In 2023, Rainbow Migration celebrates its 30th year of supporting and protecting LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers.
“Our motivation is to ensure that all LGBTQI+ people, who are fleeing persecution in their home country, are treated with respect and integrity, feel safe, have the chance to meet new people and make friends, and have a sense of belonging here in the UK,” said the spokesperson.
“We want a world where there is equality and safety, for all people in the expression of their sexual orientation and gender identity. “
Most recently, Rainbow Migration has launched the No Pride in Detention appeal, in the hopes of preventing LGBTQIA+ people from ending up in detention centres in the UK. They also have a petition you can sign to help limit detention centres to holding people for a maximum of 28 days - and hopefully one-day end detention altogether.
Rainbow Migration is committed to training other organisations how to set up and run a service for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, how mainstream services for people seeking asylum can better support LGBTQI+ and so much more.