Newly announced U.S. refugee numbers deadly for LGBT+ refugees

by Ty Cobb
Monday, 1 October 2018 15:37 GMT

Stickers are pictured at a new refugee shelter for gay, lesbian and transgender refugees run by a local gay and lesbian counselling center during a media preview day in Berlin, Germany, February 20, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The decision by the Trump-Pence administration to radically reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country each year is a national disgrace

“I am now literally dying here.”

This was the urgent plea I recently received from a gay Iranian refugee named Hassan. His dire request for support arrived just days before the U.S. Trump-Pence administration callously shut our nation’s doors to Hassan and countless other refugees seeking asylum from unspeakable violence and danger.

Hassan had escaped deadly persecution in Iran by entering a neighbouring country. He was granted refugee status by the United Nations more than two years ago and is awaiting resettlement in the United States. He has been chased, beaten and publicly humiliated in the small village where he is being held. He’s been in this environment for almost four years and describes it as “utter hell”. 

Hassan’s story is far too common. It’s a story we hear echoed by LGBT+ refugees who are waiting to be resettled in the U.S. and other places around the world. 

Since taking office, President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence have made it a priority to close our nation’s doors to refugees who are fleeing extreme danger, violence and conflict. Last week, one of the final doors that remained open was slammed shut when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. would only be accepting 30,000 refugees in 2019. 

To understand the severity of this change, we need only look back three years. 

The previous administration set a goal to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017. As soon as they took office, members of the Trump-Pence administration worked to block all refugees from entering the U.S. for months – and ultimately lowered that number to just 45,000. Even with this low bar, the U.S. government won’t meet our commitment to global citizens in dire need. 

It is projected that the U.S. will resettle less than half that number by the end of the year. This is at a time when nearly 70m people are either refugees or are otherwise “displaced” around the world – a population almost three times larger than that of Australia. 

This intention to reduce our nation’s commitment to a mere 30,000 refugees is deadly and leaves individuals like Hassan stranded and in great peril. It is the lowest annual admissions goal in the history of the U.S. refugee resettlement programme. 

This is not the only way in which the Trump-Pence administration is trying to keep vulnerable people from entering our country. They have torn families apart at the southern border and implemented an outrageous and immoral travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries alongside nations such as North Korea. And those who actually get to the U.S. are met with new and dangerous policies driven by attorney general Jeff Sessions that make it more difficult for them to claim asylum. 

This is unconscionable. The United States has been a beacon of hope for generations of immigrants and refugees seeking freedom, refuge and better lives for themselves. This is especially true for LGBT+ refugees who face persecution in their home countries. That’s why the Human Rights Campaign joins the refugee advocacy community in calling for the U.S. government to resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2019 – it’s the least they can do. 

We must resist the morally bankrupt policies of the Trump-Pence administration. Congress must act to stop these cuts. It’s critical that we speak out and ensure our elected representatives know this is an issue we care about. 

With the midterm elections less than two months away, now is the time to take action, raise our voices and make clear that we are better than this. We must vote. We must get our friends, families and colleagues to vote. We must elect a Congress that will pull the emergency brake on these immoral policies and put the United States back on the right track. 

We must do this for Hassan and the millions of other refugees whose lives are at stake. 

Ty Cobb is director of LGBT+ rights group, HRC Global


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