FY 11: Blind Alleys: The Unseen Struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Urban Refugees in Mexico, Uganda and South Africa

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

For the full report, go to: http://www.oraminternational.org/en/publications

Videos can be accessed at: http://www.oraminternational.org/en/videos

Project Overview

Refugees and asylum seekers who are sexual minorities face additional protection issues. They may experience discrimination, abuse, legal repercussions, and limited access to assistance. To explore these protection and assistance gaps, PRM funded the Organization for Refugee, Asylum and Migration (ORAM) to conduct research on sexual minority urban refugees in South Africa, Mexico and Uganda. ORAM’s field work consisted of extensive interviews with Sexually and Gender Non-Confirming (SGN) refugees, government officials, NGO workers, police, host community members and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) representatives. The full project includes country studies and context-specific guidance for UNHCR, host governments, NGOs, and donors. In addition, two short documentary videos delve deeper into the challenges of living as a sexual minority refugee. PRM is using the findings from the report to inform its LGBT protection strategy, train USG and partner staff, and assess programs proposed to enhance the protection of sexual minority refugees.

Key Findings

SGN refugees were found to be vulnerable to discrimination and violence perpetrated by host government authorities, host communities, and even other refuges. SGN refugees often faced limited access to education, housing, health services, and/or livelihoods. While South Africa has a progressive legal environment and was the first country in the world to enshrine SGN equal rights, these legal provisions do not in practice prevent discrimination, violence and xenophobia. While Mexico allows same-sex marriage and protects against discrimination, in reality SGN refugees experience violence and abuse, especially by host communities along migratory routes to other countries. Uganda possesses a particularly harsh legal environment, including an existing measure criminalizing same-sex activity and pending legislation that would penalize service providers who assist homosexuals.


Training and education:

• Train agencies, protection officers, Refugee Status Determination staff, and NGOs which provide refugee assistance to hone awareness, sensitization and expertise;

• Use SGN-declared individuals as trainers to promote positive contact and learning; and

• Encourage NGOs to train government officials, police, prison officials, customs officials and other authorities on LGBTI protection issues.

Information systems:

• Utilize social media (Facebook, texting, blogs, etc.) to disseminate information and connect refugees to each other and service providers; and

• Where technology is limited, accomplish the above by disseminating flyers, brochures, and visiting neighborhoods where known SGN refugees reside or socialize.


• Develop partnerships between organizations working in legal aid, gender based violence, human rights, and refugee assistance with an interest in protecting and assisting SGN refugees; and

• When possible, partner with faith-based community groups and other refugee-focused NGOs to coordinate referrals, establish refugee support groups, and promote a sense of community.


• Secure recognition of SGN refugees by domestic protection authorities;

• Expedite consideration of refugee claims of vulnerable SGN individuals and ensure inclusion at each stage of processing;

• Fast-track resettlement of particularly vulnerable SGN refugees;

• Improve medical services by compiling a list of specialized LGBTI-friendly providers; and

• Provide safe shelter to vulnerable SGN refugees, preferably in groups.