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LGBT Foundation recognises the Plight of LGBTQ+ Afghans

Published: 26 August 2021 Tags: #LGBT #Afghanistan #change #politics By LGBT Foundation

LGBT Foundation stands firmly in support of the LGBTQ+ community in Afghanistan. We echo the demand made by our colleagues at Stonewall and Rainbow Migration on 24 August 2021 for the UK Government to treat LGBTQ+ Afghans as a priority demographic in the ongoing evacuation and humanitarian responses, including the opening of humanitarian corridors for evacuation, similar to procedures used by the UK Government in other emergency situations, such as in Uganda or the former Yugoslavia. We particularly stress that the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme’s target of relocating up to 20,000 vulnerable people does not adequately cover the scale of danger being faced by the community. Even with a conservative estimate of 5 per cent of the national population, the LGBTQ+ Afghan population stands at a minimum of 1.9 million people (out of 38 million), with every single life explicitly at risk.

The situation is being compounded by the UK Government’s overall hostility to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals who seek asylum and refuge. Even as the circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, the Home Office is continuing its deportation proceedings, including in the cases of those who fled Afghanistan seeking protection based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. As pointed out by Detention Action on 25 August 2021, deportation orders back to Afghanistan have still not been rescinded even amidst the growing crisis. This is part of an ongoing culture of abuse where LGBTQ+ individuals seeking asylum and refuge in the UK are consistently turned away or are forced to place themselves at great risk in inhumane detention facilities.

Greater Manchester has a significant role to play in these efforts. Elected officials have proudly committed to supporting individuals seeking asylum and refuge on multiple occasions, including in the recent Equality Wins Manifesto during the 2021 election cycle. As of March 2021, 5,309 individuals seeking asylum and refuge have been housed in the Greater Manchester area, which accounts for 61.5 per cent of the total in the North-West of England. While this is truly admirable, we must ensure that the same levels of compassion are maintained, if not expanded, moving forward.

We must also take this moment to reflect on the specific nature of the backlash against even the suggestion of tackling these humanitarian issues within the UK. There is systemic racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia present in the country – including within our own LGBTQ+ community – and it is imperative that any criticism aimed at support for LGBTQ+ Afghans which is informed by bigotry and prejudice is unequivocally rejected. Concerns around “extremist infiltration” through fleeing migrants is an empirical falsehood, as expanded on in recent reporting regarding the 4,226 Afghans airlifted out of Kabul already. Moreover, such fears cannot and must not prevent an ethical approach to a humanitarian crisis, least of all when there is a moral obligation to atone for past interventions.

We end our plea by highlighting services and organisations that need to be amplified at this time. These range from groups who are assisting in the evacuation efforts and offering advice for individual cases to those which curate well-being and social spaces. For those who are able, we encourage offering any form of support to the following: Rainbow Migration, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, Manchester Refugee Support Network, Human Dignity Trust, Micro Rainbow, African Rainbow Family, First Wednesday, Queer Support for Migrants – LGSM North, and Pride Without Borders.