Lara Finkbeiner and Kevin Steen: “LGBT Refugees and How to Help” | Talks at Google

Lara Finkbeiner and Kevin Steen: “LGBT Refugees and How to Help” | Talks at Google

me welcome my guests for today. Deputy Legal Director of
the International Refugee Assistance Project and
Visiting Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law, Lara Finkbeiner. [APPLAUSE] Hi, Lara. Good to see you. And fellow Googler and founder
of Rainbow Street, Kevin Steen. [APPLAUSE] So before we start talking
about the refugee crisis, why don’t you spend a
couple of minutes describing what your organizations do
and what the goal of each of your organizations is? LARA FINKBEINER: Great. So I guess I’ll start. My name is Lara Finkbeiner. I’m the deputy legal director
at the International Refugee Assistance Project, or IRAP. IRAP is an organization that
provides free legal assistance to refugees who are seeking
safety in third countries like the United States,
Europe, Canada, Australia, to name a few countries. You guys have all seen the news. We’re facing the largest
refugee crisis of modern time, and a lot of people
are stuck in countries and still facing
ongoing persecution. And because of that, they’re
getting increasingly desperate and having to risk
their lives by trying to get on boats to reach
Europe or other places. What we’re trying to do
is to provide each refugee a lawyer in order to represent
them in legal adjudications so they can have safe legal
passage to countries where they have a permanent
path to safety. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
What about you, Kevin? KEVIN STEEN: Well,
as Andre said, I’m the founder
of Rainbow Street. And we at Rainbow Street
are focused specifically on housing needs and
other essential resources for LGBT refugees in crisis
situations in the Middle East. And so you can see us as the
kind of front-line defenders against a lot of the very
real risks of bodily harm that refugees face, that LGBT
specifically refugees face, in countries like
Jordan and Lebanon and other places where
it’s particularly risky to be yourself as a queer
person or a transgender person. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
And now let’s actually talk about the refugee crisis. And just so that everybody
is clear here, Lara, why don’t you start by telling
us what exactly constitutes a refugee? LARA FINKBEINER: Sure. So a refugee is a person who
is being individually targeted for reasons of race, religion,
nationality, political opinion, or membership in a
particular social group– and that’s where LGBT
refugees are included– and are forced to flee
their country because of that persecution and seek
safety in another country. And so right now in
the world today, there are over 65 million
people who have been displaced from their homes
because of war or persecution. And those people have sometimes
crossed an international border and gone to a neighboring
country in order to seek safety, or
sometimes they’re just displaced within
their own country. And we call those people IDPs,
or Internally Displaced People. The vast majority
of those individuals have no legal
mechanism to then get to safety in a third
country because we only have laws governing
people who have actually left their country and sought
safety in a neighboring country. So that’s sort of what the legal
definition of a refugee is. I think the thing
to remember here is that the vast majority
of these people– this is particularly
true with LGBT people– when they’re fleeing their
country because of persecution and going to a neighboring
country, a lot of times are facing the same persecution
if not worse persecution in that second country. ANDRES MUNOZ
MEDINA: So let’s try to put some numbers into this. So you said 65 million refugees. And I’m assuming
that most of them tried to come to some
Western countries, especially LGBT people. How many of them do they
actually get resettled? LARA FINKBEINER: One of the
common misconceptions I think, that people think that
refugees eventually make it to safety in a country
like the United States. In actuality, less
than 1% of all refugees will ever get the chance to
get resettled to a safe third country, less than 1%. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: The
chance to get resettled? LARA FINKBEINER: Right. So even after they’re
referred for resettlement, there’s a legal adjudication
that takes place, and not all of those
refugees are accepted. So the actual number is
even smaller than that. And so, of all the people
watching this broadcast right now, if this room
was filled with people, maybe one person in
this entire group would actually get chosen and
referred for resettlement. So it’s an incredibly
small number. What IRAP is concerned
about is that those slots go to the most vulnerable people
given that the number of slots are so low, and that
they have fairness and the adjudicative process. And so that’s what we focus on. And just to follow up
on that, a lot of people ask me why is it
such a small number, why aren’t more refugees
getting resettled. Refugees slots are basically
allocated by country. So every year, Western
countries come together and say we’ll give 50,000
slots for resettlement, we’ll give 10,000
slots for resettlement. Those numbers are really a
drop in the bucket compared to the overall numbers of people
who are displaced in the world. So what we’re
seeing increasingly, in particular with
the United States now, is those
numbers are actually getting smaller and
smaller at the same time that the crisis
is growing, which is putting individual
lives at risk. And so that’s sort
of the situation that we’re facing right now. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: Let me
try to focus a little bit more on the subject of
LGBTQ+ refugees. So 65 million, it’s the
number of total refugees. What about LGBTQ+? How are they different from
the general population? You said some countries sort
of try to make things fair. Is being LGBTQ+ better for you
because you are at more risk? Is it worse for you just
because you were gay? LARA FINKBEINER: I’m answer
the legal side of that and then turn it over to
you for country conditions. One thing that I think is
really important to say first and foremost when we’re talking
about LGBT persecuted people is that there’s a
distinction between people who make it to Western countries
and are able to seek asylum. We call those people
asylum seekers. So if you actually make
it to the United States, you have the right
to apply for asylum and prove that you
faced persecution. But to make it to
the United States, you have to have a visa
they go on an airplane. And for most LGBT people in
the world, that’s impossible because, to get a visa, you
have to show significant ties to your home country. So you have to show
that you’re married. You have to show you have
kids, a high-paying job, you own a house, you own a car. These are all things that
are unattainable to most LGBT people in the world. And so that’s really
an impossible task. And so because of that, we
have this refugee resettlement scheme which is supposed to
complement our domestic asylum scheme in allowing us to do
adjudications of refugees who are still stuck overseas. So that’s just sort
of the first hurdle. LGBT people, when
they’re being persecuted, they’re not really able to
get a visa and get on a plane. So what they’re able
to do potentially is cross a border into
a neighboring country. And I say potentially
because there are a lot of folks who can’t
travel safely internationally even if they’re just crossing
a land border from, let’s say, Lebanon to another country. They can’t go through
any kind of checkpoint because, perhaps they’re
trans and their gender marker on their
passport doesn’t match their physical presentation. And that’s something that
could get them killed. And so some people are
actually literally stuck in their country. And even if they make it
to a neighboring country, if they make it to Jordan,
if they make it to Lebanon and from, let’s
say Iraq or Syria, they still face a
host of issues there. KEVIN STEEN: Yeah. And that’s kind of where
Rainbow Street comes in is, similar to
IRAP, we are trying to focus on the most like
vulnerable of the vulnerable cases for queer people and
trans people in these countries where it’s really, really tough
for them to live, let alone possibly travel or seek refuge. And so we work
primarily with groups of local activists
in Jordan and Lebanon and surrounding
countries that are focused on getting folks out
of life-threatening situations. Really often, we see individuals
who are facing persecution from their own family. That’s actually probably
the most prevalent concern that we have for
a lot of the folks that we’re monitoring is
they may instantaneously enter a really life-threatening
situation if they are outed to someone in their family. And in these places like
Jordan, for example, where there is a really
prevalent social structure based on family ties, that
really complicates that. And so if you’re going
to flee your family, it’s not really a
matter of finding a different
neighborhood to live in or even a different city on
the other side of the country. If you’re fleeing your
family because you’re trans, it means there is
a network of people throughout the
country, many of whom you may have never met before,
who are looking out for you. And not in a good way, but I
mean they’re hunting you down. And that’s the
situation that we’ve helped a lot of our
refugees get out of when they have opted to
leave the country in emergency situations. That actually happened
just last week with a really young
transgender woman in Jordan who chose
to flee to Lebanon, and IRAP and Rainbow Street
worked together to get her out as quickly as possible. I think, though,
that so often there is the misconception, not just
by supporters of this work but also the beneficiaries of
Rainbow Street who are really in these crisis situations,
that as soon as they get to that second country that
their situation is going to be a lot more secure or safe. It’s definitely better
to be in a country where you’re not being actively
hunted down by your family, but folks who end up
in a second country are exceptionally
vulnerable because they have no support network whatsoever. And so that’s where we activate
our resources as volunteers at Rainbow Street,
as we’re connected to a network of activists in all
these different countries who are trained with our
case intake protocol to learn exactly what the
needs of these people are and mobilize to
get them housing. And so all of our
assistance comes in the form of cash stipends
on a monthly basis that is designed to help people
get the housing that they need and other services such
as medical checkups. Trans people in particular have
a whole lot of ongoing medical needs that cannot be ignored,
and our activists also connect them not just to the funding,
but also to support networks to help them find the safe
places in these countries to live. You can’t just live in
any old neighborhood. And so that kind of
holistic approach I think is really,
really necessary and really lacking
right now in a lot of these under-resourced
countries for LGBT folks, where there just is a community
but it’s pretty disjointed. And so we at Rainbow
Street are focused on of organizing that a
little bit and channeling some of the funds
from US donors, grassroots donors, who
really want to help and getting folks
off the street out of that vulnerable situation
so that they can access groups like IRAP. If you’re on the
street, it’s really hard to be able to make
appointments and be able to keep those
appointments if you don’t have any money for
transportation, getting in a taxi. With the kind of assistance
that our network provides, folks can access those
resources that connect them to their long-term support. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
That’s great, Kevin. You mentioned something
about local organizations that you work with,
especially in the Middle East. Do you feel that– let me rephrase. How do you think the
local organizations are supporting the LGBT refugees? Are they trying
to do a good job? Are there enough? Obviously, probably not enough. KEVIN STEEN: Never enough. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
Never enough. KEVIN STEEN: There’s
never enough. Good question, though. The truth is I definitely don’t
know every single group that’s out there. I’m constantly learning
about new groups that have some kind of
informal support strategy and figuring out
what I can learn from them, what
information I can possibly share with them from Rainbow
Street, kind of them connected with our support
network in a way that is secure for our volunteers. Because you never
know who might be trying to get more
information about them for malicious purposes. But in general,
there’s a lot more going on in the Middle East in
terms of queer rights and trans rights. Unfortunately, not a lot of it
can be focused on policy work. In Lebanon, though,
there is a great group called Helem that is focused
specifically on policy. There is a law in Lebanon– I don’t know if people
are familiar– that criminalizes same sex relations
in really ambiguous terms. And so there’s like
a lot of legal space to be able to kind of
reset that precedent. And so that’s what Helem
is working on right now. They’re the main legal advocacy
group that I’m aware of. Maybe you know more
on that regard, Lara? LARA FINKBEINER: No. I mean, there are
actors in this space, but I mean Helem’s been in
Lebanon for a number of years now, and they’re definitely
at the forefront of this. But in general,
there is not a lot of space for
advocacy work on this because it’s just
simply too dangerous. KEVIN STEEN: Yeah. It’s simply too
dangerous, exactly. And there’s also the
barrier of simply not being able to literally
register legally as an entity. And so, like in
Jordan for example, there is Rainbow Street. We have like a group of a dozen
caseworkers who meet weekly. We have office space. But we’re not legally
registered as an organization because that would be far too
dangerous to flag ourselves to the local government. And there are
other organizations we work with, a media
organization called “MyKali Magazine,”
who does awesome work. They have this online magazine. Everyone should check it out. I think it’s just like Maybe. Search it. It’s amazing. They do a lot of features of
queer artists in the Middle East. They publish in
Arabic and English. They’re really at the
forefront of this. And Rainbow Street
gets a lot of referrals from folks who contact
MyKali looking for support for themselves as a queer person
who may be facing persecution, or maybe just needs community. There are also a lot of just
informal housing networks. Especially within
the trans community we see a lot of trans women
banding together and being able to identify friends of
friends who are able to offer a room on a short-term basis. And part of our work
at Rainbow Street is really trying to
organize that network in a way that does not
increase the amount of risk that people are in. Because as you can
imagine, the more you share with others about
these networks, the more risk you’re in of being discovered
by local authorities. And so we are constantly
meeting new groups of just informal
activist networks who are working together to
secure housing and provide food for people and trying to really
bring them into the folds and organize it as
much as it needs to be organized in order to have
more resources to refer people to. So most of Rainbow Street’s
work is in Jordan and Lebanon, and so that’s kind of like
where my knowledge lies. But I’m constantly
learning about new groups. One for example
in Tunis, Tunisia, called Dumge that is
currently assisting us with a case, a trans
man who just moved from Algeria to Tunis,
who is just kind of like starting over and
registering as a refugee and getting on the track
to eventual resettlement. And that’s a great
example of a group that I had not heard
of until very recently but is extremely well
equipped to mobilize and get this person help resources,
psychological support, community support,
housing, stipend for food, mobile phone– that’s one
thing you need immediately when you get in country,
and often people have to trash their
old phones because who knows who has that number. And so I’ve been
really encouraged. As I’ve done this work
since like 2014 or so, there are always more
groups popping up that kind of identify
themselves as soon as we are in a crisis situation and
need support in a new location. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: We all
know that our dear President Trump is trying to
pass this ban, travel ban, executive order. How bad is it? How much does it affect
the refugee program in US in legal terms for a refugee
that is trying to come here? LARA FINKBEINER: Yeah. The executive order has
had a devastating effect. I think one thing that
hasn’t been told in the media is much as we hear a lot
about these six countries where there’s a visa ban. But actually, the
executive order also completely shuts down
all refugee processing. So that applies to refugees
from every country in the world, not just a set of countries. And I won’t go into the whole
history, the legal history. You guys have probably
seen in the news. There’s all kinds of court
decisions coming out. So I’ll just skip to what
the current status is, is that the ban is
actually in effect. After the Supreme
Court decision, the ban went into effect
with some limitations. Right now, refugees are
not coming to this country unless they can show they
have a bonafide tie to a US person or a US entity. What does that mean? We’re still fighting
about that in court. The one thing resolved is that
if you have US family here, then you’re allowed to come in. That’s not a great solution
for most LGBT refugees because they may have fled
persecution from their family. They may have
strained relationships with their family. Or they may just not
have family here. And so for example, a couple of
weeks ago, one of our clients told his story in
“The New York Times.” He’s an LGBT refugee
from Iraq who was tortured by his
father for years. And then ISIS basically
started to take over his town, and he had to flee for his life. And so he went to Turkey
where, actually, things are getting increasingly
worse for LGBT folks there. They’ve banned Pride for
the last three years. KEVIN STEEN: With water cannons. LARA FINKBEINER:
With water cannons. Relatively recently, a
Syrian refugee, LGBT refugee, was decapitated by a militia. So obviously his life
is in danger there. He was lucky enough to get
referred for a settlement through the entire
US adjudication, was accepted right before
the executive order came out. And since then, it’s just been
a series of getting his hopes up once we get a victory
in court and then having his hopes let down. And in this article, what
he talks about is that, after everything that he’s
been through in his life, the most devastating
thing that happened to him has been this executive order
and having literally his travel date, which is just like his
glimpse at a safe future, snatched away from him. And so it really is truly
affecting individual lives. And even though this
is supposed to be only a 120-day
suspension, 120 days is literally life or
death for some people. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: This
fear, it’s unfortunately not only in US. We’ve seen a lot of
countries in Europe are also turning
into this nationalist and trying to close
their borders. So how are we doing as a country
compared to everybody else, I guess? LARA FINKBEINER: That’s
a really tough question. So traditionally, the
US has actually always been the largest
resettlement country. So we accept more
resettled refugees than all the other
countries combined. But that program is– we set the number
every single year, and that number is
set by the president. And that happens around this
time every year, October. And so we’re hoping to continue
to be a leader in refugee resettlement, particularly for
persecuted LGBT individuals. But you know, everything is
sort of in jeopardy right now. And now is the time
that people really need to stand up and show
their support for this program. This program has
been run for years. The refugees that come
through this program are vetted by 11 different
government agencies, including the CIA, FBI,
Department of Defense, before they even come to the US. Refugees are the most
heavily-vetted group of individuals that come
to the United States. And so we’ve put
so many resources into ensuring that the
program is safe in order to keep this really,
really valuable and vital lifeline
available to individuals. And so I would say, to
answer your question, refugees all over
the world are facing sort of unprecedented attacks. And a lot of it is based
on misunderstanding, misinformation. The US is one of
those countries. The executive order has had
a really terrible effect, but I’m still
hopeful, especially given all of the response
to the executive order by the American public, that
we can ensure that we remain a country that welcomes
others, particularly people who have been
persecuted for who they are. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: So now, I
think the question that we all want to know, what can we do? I mean, it sounds really grim. We’re just people, right? What can we do? LARA FINKBEINER: Yeah. I know. Sometimes I hate
giving these talks because the situation does sound
really dire, but we at IRAP are still hopeful. Every week we get the news that
one client or a few clients make it to safety and are able
to start their lives over. Some of our cases that
we’ve worked on together have made it to countries
and are flourishing there. And so we still have
the ability to make a difference in an
individual life, and I think that’s really
important to remember. Because sometimes you see
this number, 65 million, and it seems really overwhelming
and hard to sort of feel tangible. But it’s still 65 million
individual stories and 65 million individual lives. So there’s a lot of room
to affect individual lives. If there are any lawyers
who are watching this, IRAP actually works with
a really vast network of volunteer lawyers
and law students. We have something like over
600 active cases right now even though we’re a small
organization because of our vast volunteer network. And so if anyone is interested
in volunteering their time to work on an
individual case, please feel free to reach out to us. Secondly, donations. Even a small amount
of money can make a huge difference for people. Sometimes we have clients who
are kicked out on the street, but they have a resettlement
date in three weeks and they just need a hotel
room for three weeks. So they need a place to
stay just for a few weeks. A few hundred dollars can
save that person’s life. And so donate to groups,
especially– groups like Rainbow Street can make a
huge difference for a person. And then I’ll say,
thirdly, I guess one of my missions in life,
this year in particular, is for people to understand
that refugees are an LGBT issue, and to make that part of the
conversation in our community. And particularly,
when you’re talking to people who maybe don’t know
that much about the process or don’t know that much about
what LGBT refugees go through, it’s really important
to sort of dispel rumors and to talk about individual
stories that you’ve heard of. And if you have
any other questions or you want to talk
to me afterwards, I’m happy to chat as well. But we really rely
on people like you to sort of spread the
word within our community because we are stronger
when we stand together. IRAP was the group that
basically started the airport response after the
executive order. We foresaw that there
was going to be an issue. We had two clients who were
on planes that landed at JFK two hours after the
executive order was signed. And we put out a
call to attorneys to come to the airports. And I think we are
expecting maybe we’ll get 10 people to show up at JFK. Certainly didn’t expect hundreds
of attorneys and protesters to converge on airports
all around the country. That made a difference from it
being a small issue where maybe we got a couple of clients
out, to leading to momentum to then address the
executive order in courts, and win, and get
clients to safety. So we really are
stronger together, and I think it’s a really
important time for us to come together as a
community and to advocate on these folks’ behalf. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA: Kevin,
want to add anything to that? KEVIN STEEN: I mean, I love
everything that you just said, Lara. And I just love IRAP for
starting that response that was able to really help
people in crisis situations that they had no idea that
they were about to land in. I think, in addition to
everything that Lara said, there are a couple of
narratives that I think are worth kind of engaging
with in our popular culture, and some of them
are really, really well intentioned, which provides
an awesome opportunity to kind of work in a little bit of
education for our community. And by our community I mean
the LGBT and allied community. Because like you said,
Lara, systems of oppression all benefit from one another. And by dismantling
oppression in one form, we are definitely
providing more space for liberation for queer
people and trans people. So I think the first
thing that comes to mind is changing the narrative around
the situation for LGBT people in the Middle East
in particular, since that’s where
Rainbow Street works and where my expertise is. It’s really, really easy to
fall into the trap of discussing LGBT issues in the Middle East
and in doing so inadvertently painting Islam as an inherently
homophobic system of belief, which is a myth,
depending on who you ask. But kind of a lot of
different religions or a lot of different
social groups, there are so many ways
to understand that issue. I’ve definitely seen some
super well-intentioned folks look to Islam or look
to organized religion as a source of these problems. And I think that that can be
really unhelpful, actually, because we’re at a period where
xenophobia and Islamophobia is really, really fueling
this anti-refugee sentiment that we’re seeing. And so I really think
it’s very important to sort of engage
with those questions and look to the groups
who identify as Muslim and are in these countries
helping each other out as evidence that this is
not a cut-and-dry issue. This is not an Islamic issue or
a Middle East can’t figure it out kind of issue. There are activist communities
who are working independently out there, and I know a lot
of them and work with them on a daily basis. So I think being
able to really speak to that is an
important conversation for us to have as a community. And I think, in terms
of discussing ways that we can help, so often
like lots of people– I live in the San
Francisco Bay Area, and I imagine it’s similar here
in New York, I’m not sure– there are a lot of
great groups who are focused on
refugee resettlement, and a lot of LGBT
groups who are providing funds and other kinds of
resources, volunteer time, to connecting with refugees
who have been resettled in the United States. And you need a support
network, and that is so necessary and
like totally do not mean to undermine that
at all because that needed to keep happening. But often, I’ve found that
the conversation kind of stops there. And that by providing these
resources for queer people or trans people who have
been resettled in country, people may not be able
to see beyond and look at these numbers that
Lara was talking about and see the assistance
that’s really needed in first or
second countries before people are resettled,
or maybe folks who are eligible to be resettled. So as a queer community,
as an LGBT community, I think that we really
enjoy a lot of benefits from living in the
society that we’re in. You were just telling
me this earlier, Andres, and I really want
to echo the sentiment. I feel so grateful to be where
I am in the United States at this point in
history, where there are a lot of fights
ahead of us, but we can have these conversations. And I personally feel like
it’s time for us as a community to pay it forward. And I am really, really
encouraged to see people who are donating to
groups like Rainbow Street, but also other
groups like IRAP who have specific LGBT
kind of programming and are helping people get
out of these situations. Because this is an
international issue, and it requires an
international response. And so while we focus on
our local communities, we need to not let that stop
us from looking beyond that. And so, of course
donations are great. Rainbow Street is
all grassroots. We’ve got a little
donation booth over there if you’re here in person. And for IRAP, as well. I know that we’re accepting
donations for IRAP over there. As a Googler, I give every
month to both organizations and that gets matched. So something to think about. The other thing is, at
least for Rainbow Street, I can speak to the need for
volunteers to give your time. We definitely rely on
a network of volunteers who are in country and can
provide the services that are really crucial for
these LGBT refugees and internally-displaced people. But we also just need
to get the word out here in the United States
about why this is an international
issue, why it should be important
to the LGBT community. And sometimes that looks
like volunteer time at a tabling event. Sometimes that looks like
dedicating your social media page to this for a while, which,
like, actually gets people to look at it. And as much as you can scoff
at social media, it does help. And we need people
to help us research, too, different situations
with different countries. And so that, as we respond
to the needs of refugees or other folks who
get in touch with us, we can make informed
decisions about like, OK, who is providing XYZ
resources in this locale? Who can we begin to work
with in this new locale? And so if any Google
employees in the audience are interested in being a
part of any of those efforts, it’s not all tabling. A lot of it is kind
of like research and coordinating for the
more introverted among us. Get in touch with me. You know who I am. And there is a
volunteer listserv, Rainbow Street volunteers,
I think it is, at Google. If you’re tuning in externally,
visit our website site That’s Rainbow dash Street. And we have a volunteer
portal for you to sign in and say
that you’re interested, and we’ll be in touch
as soon as there’s an opportunity in your area. If you’re feeling really
proactive, email me. There’s an [email protected] That will go to someone
at Rainbow Street. And we can talk about
an event that you may have in mind or any
other kind of project. We’re very grassroots. We really depend on
the awesome ideas of people who get
in touch with us and really want to
share in this movement. So I’m definitely willing
to listen and work with you on that, too. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
Well, thank you, guys. Now is the time, if
you have any questions, please use the microphones
if you want to ask anything to Lara or Kevin. AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Pat. I work here on Google Maps. So I guess my question is,
a lot of the conversation is focused around
the Middle East. Are there any scenarios
happening outside of the Middle East that you work with– I think you said
for Rainbow Street you’re specifically focused
on Lebanon and Jordan– but anything that we should
know about issues outside of that part of the
world, especially I guess with the recent
news coming out of Chechnya? LARA FINKBEINER: Yeah. So IRAP, I say we’re Middle
East focused because that’s primarily where the
majority of our clients are, but we provide almost all
of our assistance remotely. And so we work with folks
all around the world. And I’ll speak about
Chechnya in just a moment, but I guess the thing
I would emphasize here is a lot of what we’re talking
about in the Middle East plays out in all these different
regions around the world. Whether you’re
fleeing from Uganda to a neighboring
country, or if you’re trying to leave Chechnya and
go to a neighboring country, again, even crossing
an international border doesn’t necessarily make
you safe as an LGBT person. And actually, I talk
about this a lot, but I actually think
there needs to be a lot more sort of direct
pipelines from your country of origin to a safe country if
you’re LGBT because sometimes you’re even safer
in your own country because you might have some
networks or some people you can rely on if things
go really south, or maybe you continue
working and making an income. All of those things
are taken away from you when you flee your country. But it’s basically playing
out all over the world. Most of the hotspots where
you see LGBT persecution, things are not a lot better
in neighboring countries, which are the only places
that can really access. In regards to
Chechnya, the situation has gotten a lot
of attention, which has been really important. We actually have seen a
number of countries step up, and we’ve gotten
some folks to safety in other European countries. And we’re in talks of trying to
help people come to the United States as well. So there actually has
been an encouraging sort of international
response to that, which is really great
because what’s going on there right now is just deplorable. So yeah, to answer your
question, we are definitely are involved in other
areas of the world as well. KEVIN STEEN: I think for Rainbow
Street, as you mentioned, we are particularly focused
on Arabic-speaking countries because the genesis
of Rainbow Street started with some connections
I made when I visited Jordan at one point, and a close
friend of mine who ended up in this life-threatening
situation, and a complete absence
of any services like this in the region. So I can’t really speak to a
lot of the services that are available in
non-Arabic-speaking countries, but again I’ve been really,
really encouraged to see groups like– I think the Russian
LGBT Network has really stepped up and taken
a lot of the kind of front-line load of
these folks out of Chechnya who need support. And of course, IRAP and
a lot of other countries who’ve been resettling
folks on an emergency basis. ANDRES MUNOZ MEDINA:
Any other questions? Well, like Kevin
said, we’re going to have a couple of
donation stations over there if you wish to donate. It will be deducted
from your payroll and will be matched by Google. So yay. Otherwise, please help me
thank our guests today. [APPLAUSE]

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. There is very little refugees currently compared to other times in history. It is being used to mask the undocumented importation of cultures that are not compatible with our own.

  2. Wow, this comment section is p fucken saddening. It's really great to see ongoing flagrant xenophobia is a dominant norm here. Awesome. (not like there's, you know, a century-worth of US & GB-led persistent deliberate sabotaging of any remotely progressive movement or political process in the arab world, in tandem with ceaseless unquestioned funneling of support to Saudi sponsors of hyper-regressive versions of islam (which, by the way, are as horrifically detached from the messages of source texts as evangelical christians in the USA), which are actually the cause of the ongoing instability and tyranny of governments and dominant political movements in the area.)

    Anybody mad at refugees is mad at the wrong people, born out of ignorance and an unwillingness to think critically. The situations they're fleeing were constructed in our name. We, our parents, their parents did this. We continue to cause the horrors that anybody would flee.

    The absolute minimum we can do is be compassionate to those whose home countries we've fucked with for decades. If you seriously want less refugees, there's a very simple, obvious way to actually do that without being a sack of shit person:

    Make sure people elsewhere don't need to emigrate, by making sure that nobody's life sucks.

    This doesn't mean "jump on board the interventionist bandwagon at every opportunity", but does mean "be critical of and actively subvert the mythologies used to justify the propping up of oppressive regimes and the destruction of progressive movements locally and overseas".

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