Group Praises Obama on Refugees, Advocates for LGBT Slots

San Francisco, CA.  Neil Grungras, Executive Director of ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration, applauded the Obama administration for yesterday’s announcement that the United States will embrace 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.

Boat_People_at_Sicily_in_the_Mediterranean_SeaNorth African immigrants near the Italian island of Sicily.
Photo: Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy | Wikipedia.

“The fact that the United States will now start accepting more refugees is a very welcome development,” said Grungras.  “Also, we urge the Administration to hold 500 of those slots for vulnerable LGBTI refugees like Subhi Nahas, who are escaping extremely treacherous countries. Of course the number announced yesterday should be additional to the current annual refugee quota.”

Nahas, a gay Syrian, described what life was like for him in Syria and the dangers he faced there, at a historic meeting on LGBT human rights at the United Nations Security Council on August 24.  Last month’s UN meeting was spearheaded by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power along with U.N. Ambassador Cristian Barros Melet of Chile.

Nahas recently resettled in the U.S. with the help of ORAM and is now an advocate for LGBT and other vulnerable refugees and the organization’s systems administrator.

Nahas is one of the lucky refugees. He is one of less than 100 LGBTI refugees, according to Power, out of the nearly 70,000 refugees in total, who made it to the U.S. in 2014, according to the U.S. State Department.

“We urge the administration to take a brave, bold step and for the first time set aside a target of 500 slots for LGBTI refugees out the 10,000 announced yesterday,” continued Grungras.

There are at least 400 self-identified LGBT Syrian refugees currently in Turkey, a temporary host country – with thousands more in hiding. LGBT Syrians have also escaped to Lebanon, Jordan and other countries.

Grungras called for the U.S. to work closely with ORAM and other refugee organizations who have earned the trust of the LGBTI refugee community.

“A lesbian sitting in Turkey or Lebanon is very unlikely to come out to any organization unless she’s sure it’s LGBT-friendly. She’ll be terrified to be judged or worse by the refugee professionals charged with protecting her. She needs someone she trusts to hold her hand and say ‘You are completely safe with me’,” concluded Grungras.

LGBT refugees are persecuted by their families, their communities and their governments. They are also commonly abused by fellow refugees. Many report being excluded from refugee protection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

ORAM has directly trained over 1,500 refugee professionals working in United Nations, government and community-based agencies in 14 countries, who have together assisted over a million refugees. Thousands of refugee and asylum workers around the world utilize ORAMs tools and resources, which have benefitted 5 million people in the past five years.

Select Media Coverage of the U.N. Security Council LGBT Meeting:

New York Times: Gay and Marked for Death

Voice of America: Gay Men Tell UN Security Council of Being IS Targets

Buzzfeed: Two Gay Men Who Fled ISIS Just Made U.N. History

The Washington Blade: Islamic State focus of U.N. Security Council’s first LGBT meeting

HuffPost “Gay Voices”: Making History: Telling My Story to the U.N. Security Council

Reuters: Gay men tell UN Security Council of being Islamic State targets

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About ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration

ORAM is an international non-profit organization devoted to capacity-building and advocacy on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

ORAM enables the international community to protect exceptionally vulnerable refugees through capacity-building, cutting-edge research, innovative resources and tools. ORAM also provides refugees with legal assistance and the information they critically need to access refugee protection systems.

Rooted in justice and driven by its commitment to uphold the integrity of the international refugee system, ORAM advocates for the vulnerable, fosters strong connections with refugee professionals, and responds to the most pressing issues within the world’s ever-evolving refugee landscape.

You can read more about ORAM’s work by visiting the organization’s website, and social media via Facebook and Twitter.

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The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.