Together with Stonewall, we have written to the Foreign Secretary to call for his leadership in creating the conditions needed for LGBTQ+ Afghans to be evacuated, and request an urgent meeting to develop an appropriate response that includes LGBTQ+ Afghans as a priority group for assistance immediately.
The full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Foreign Secretary,
We are writing to you with great urgency regarding the safety and security of LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan who have contacted us and who need protection and safe passage to the UK.
LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan and their contacts have been reaching out to us at great risk given their vulnerability under the Taliban. We also know that these members of our community are not an exception. We are aware of other LGBTQ+ Afghans who have been seeking the support of civil society in both Australia and the USA. All of these individuals share a grave fear of being early targets of the new regime simply because they are LGBTQ+.
LGBTQ+ Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the Government’s evacuation programme unless they receive targeted support.
We write today to call for your leadership in creating the conditions needed for LGBTQ+ Afghans to be evacuated. We request an urgent meeting to share our insights and support you and your teams to develop an appropriate response that includes LGBTQ+ Afghans as a priority group for assistance immediately.
Like all those seeking to flee, it is clear that robust security efforts are needed for vulnerable people to be able to leave the country to seek safety.
For this reason, we are calling on this government to work in concert with other aligned Governments to open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of LGBTQ+ people, similar to corridors used by the UK Government in other emergency contexts such as Uganda or the former Yugoslavia. We fear that the withdrawal of those secure passages at an early date leaves no further opportunity for ensuring the security of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ+ Afghans.
Civil society outside of Afghanistan who are already in touch with those trying to leave could support LGBTQ+ Afghans to make a case for evacuation securely immediately, enabling them to leave the country while it remains possible.
We recognise and welcome the bilateral efforts of the UK in quickly establishing the resettlement programme, but share concerns that the scale of the planned programme does not come close to meeting the protection need. We applaud the government’s commitment to resettling those most vulnerable and we look for your assurances that this will include LGBTQ+ people. It is essential for UNHCR to work with LGBTQ+ civil society organisations to ensure this happens and that any screening process takes this into account the fact that LGBTQ+ people who flee will not be able to readily disclose and evidence their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We hope to meet you urgently to discuss how we can implement support for LGBTQ+ Afghans.
Leila Zadeh (she/her), Executive Director,Rainbow Migration
Nancy Kelley (she/her), Chief Executive, Stonewall