Posted by: outandequal | June 16, 2011

Addressing the needs of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers

Kevin Jones

J. Kevin Jones, Jr., Deputy Director

by Kevin Jones | A few months ago, I was in Washington DC to represent Out & Equal at a meeting of The Council for Global Equality, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together international human rights activists, foreign policy experts, LGBT leaders, philanthropists and corporate officials to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world.

Among the topics that were a part of the two-day agenda was a discussion on LGBT refugees where I had the opportunity to learn of ORAM, the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration.   ORAM is the only international nongovernmental organization focusing exclusively on refugees and asylum seekers fleeing sexual and gender-based violence and has recently formed a “Joint Secretariat on LGBT refugee issues with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

I was impressed by their presentation.  I also learned that ORAM is headquartered in San Francisco and this year launched the first-ever US resettlement project for LGBT refugees, centered in the Bay Area.   I made a note to follow up with ORAM staff to discuss how we might together educate Out & Equal constituents on this global issue facing the LGBT community.

Within the past few weeks,  Out & Equal and ORAM have crossed paths in two ways.  First, I had the opportunity to meet with Neil Grungras, ORAM’s Founding Executive Director.  We had an excellent conversation about the work of our two organizations, and will be planning an International Town Call soon to discuss the plight of LGBT refugees and ORAM’s work.   ORAM will also participate in this year’s Workplace Summit in Dallas in October.    Watch for more information!

Completely coincidentally, our Founding Executive Director, Selisse Berry, received a request to speak with a young man from Uganda.  After meeting him, we learned that he is the first LGBT refugee relocated to the Bay Area through ORAM.   I am happy to report that he will begin an internship with Out & Equal this week.   I hope to share more of his story over time.

I am continually amazed by the amount of good work that is going on in the world by and in support of the LGBT community, by groups like ORAM and The Council for Global Equality.   And I am equally amazed by how much work there remains to be done.

(NB: For those in San Francisco on June 24th,  The 2nd Annual ORAM Lecture Series: Hidden Topics in LGBTI Asylum and Refugee Law is taking place from 8:30am – 1:00pm at UC Hastings College of the Law.   Click HERE for more information).

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