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UNHCR publishes updated guidance on working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) persons in forced displacement


Practical advice for UNHCR staff and others who work with LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees

Date of Publication:
18 May 2021

UNHCR publishes updated guidance on working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) persons in forced displacement

18 May 2021

On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) yesterday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published updated 'need to know guidance' on Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) Persons in Forced Displacement.

CoverThe 48-page guidance can be downloaded here.

While the guidance is primarily aimed at UNHCR staff, it should also prove a useful resource for anyone who works with LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees.

It includes, for example, a helpful glossary of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) terms. UNHCR says: "[T]he hope is that this glossary will prove to be a useful reference to alleviate uncertainty over terminology. When using these terms, it is also important to understand, and be sensitive to, how these and underlying concepts are used in specific cultural contexts."

UNHCR uses LGBTIQ+ as an umbrella term to include all persons whose SOGIESC is not adequately addressed by the categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, in particular persons whose gender identity is fluid or non-binary.

The guidance notes that forcibly displaced LGBTIQ+ individuals encounter distinct protection risks and are at heightened risk of exclusion, exploitation, violence and abuse throughout the entire displacement cycle.

UNHCR explains: "All persons who are forcibly displaced face challenges. LGBTIQ+ displaced persons are at particular risk because they often encounter targeted discrimination, abuse and violence in countries of origin, transit and asylum. Many avoid seeking protection out of fear of further harm, their protection needs often go unmet and they are unable to participate in activities or access support that could benefit them. It is important to keep in mind that everybody has SOGIESC, but certain people are targeted for discrimination and abuse because one or more elements of their SOGIESC do not conform with prevailing sociocultural norms."

The guidance adds: "LGBTIQ+ refugees may be subject to continued harm while they are in transit or once they arrive in countries of asylum. Many of them attempt to hide their SOGIESC in an effort to avoid being targeted for abuse, making it difficult for UNHCR and its humanitarian partners to identify them or facilitate their access to asylum procedures and humanitarian services. Some may not be aware that they can request assistance from UNHCR on issues related to how they are treated due to their non-normative SOGIESC. This is often the case for LGBTIQ+ adolescents, youth, older persons, women, people with a disability and members of ethnic and/or faith minorities."

UNHCR notes that local LGBTIQ+ organizations and other civil society organizations are invaluable partners in identifying the needs and priorities of LGBTIQ+ persons, especially as LGBTIQ+ persons are frequently marginalized within the general displaced population and may not feel safe disclosing their SOGIESC.

In related news, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (or UKLGIG) announced yesterday that it has now changed its name to Rainbow Migration. The group's new website is at

Explaining the change of name, Rainbow Migration said: "[O]ur former name no longer reflected who we are as an organisation that welcomes all of the LGBTQI+ community. In Rainbow Migration and in the warm and vibrant colours of our new brand, we have found a name and visual identity that reflects what we do and who we are, and embraces all the communities that we work for and support."

Rainbow Migration added: "Our new name marks a new period in our future, while focusing on the issues that matter most to us: supporting LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system."