Launch of BeLonG To’s LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Project

31/01/2012
Submitted by BeLonG To Youth Services

BeLonG To launched its training programme on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Ireland today.

Since its inception in 2003, BeLonG To has provided support and services to young LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom face isolation and marginalisation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to growing concerns regarding the wellbeing of these young people, BeLonG To established a two year pilot project, the first of its kind in Ireland, to increase the safety and quality of life of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.

Launching the training project, Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Ireland, Sophie Magennis, said, “UNHCR is delighted to launch the LGBT asylum seekers and refugees project, which will assist in closing current gaps in awareness and inconsistencies in practise which exist in Ireland and throughout the EU. BeLonG To is a key partner for UNHCR and we have invited the project to deliver the LGBT training programme to our staff in Ireland”.

Major protection challenges for LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people in Ireland include safety while housed in direct provision accommodation; insufficient access to appropriate services including healthcare and psychosocial support - specifically when dispersed to rural areas through the direct provision system; mental health issues, often arising from delays in decision making; lack of early legal representation and gaps in LGBT sensitive service provision.

Describing his experience as a young man seeking asylum on the basis of sexual orientation who received support from BeLonG To’s LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees Youth Service, Adam D* stated.

“This is the truth: I don’t think I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for BeLonG To. I really wanted to kill myself, I just really wanted to die and get away from this. But then after talking to people from this service, encouraging me and constantly telling me that everything would be ok, and still giving me room to express myself all the time... They have helped me a lot, I have grown, and I have learned how to accept myself”.

In February 2012 BeLonG To will commence a training programme for staff of services that work with asylum seekers and refugees. These trainings will assist service providers to better understand the particular situation of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, and will guide service providers on how to work sensitively with this group.

Michael Barron, CEO of BeLonG To observed “Young LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Ireland are an invisible group: a minority within a minority. They face grave isolation due to the multiple marginalities they experience: as asylum seekers or refugees, and on the basis of race coupled with sexual orientation and gender identity. Traditionally in Ireland there has been a failure to adequately address their situation, which has resulted in vulnerable young people being forced to survive in unsafe environments. This project seeks to mainstream the issues of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees within the organisations working with them. Since the Project began we have seen first-hand that accessing LGBT-sensitive services can greatly improve the safety and wellbeing of asylum seeking and refugee youth. We hope that organisations will avail of our trainings in order to create safer and inclusive spaces for LGBT asylum seeking and refugee young people in Ireland.”

* Name has been changed for reasons of anonymity.

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