LGBTQ refugee sponsorship- can we help?

If you’re a regular Affirm newsletter or social media reader, you may have seen our links to Rainbow Railroad and other groups who work with the Canadian government’s pilot project for LGBTQ+ refugee sponsorship. Did you know the United Church of Canada is one of the few Sponsorship Agreement Holders within the LGBTQ refugee program? And that there are more people seeking refuge than there are sponsors?

At the February 2017 national Council meeting, United Church of Canada Refugee Program staff Khwaka Kukubo and Ammar Youzbashi took the time to explain this branch of sponsorship to Council. They made it clear more sponsors are needed.

They explained that the United Church and Metropolitan Community Church are the only faith based Sponsorship Agreement Holders in Canada. Refugee sponsorships for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities are done in partnership with Rainbow Refugee Canada.

They noted that sometimes churches prefer to sponsor families, and that most LGBTQ refugees arrive alone. They feel more awareness of the LGTBQ sponsorship option is needed, and noted that Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble (AUSE) can help.

In turn, AUSE has committed to raising awareness of this urgent need amongst our membership. We will set up a new website section, and are preparing to set up the structure needed to accept and channel donations to groups that are on the front line of getting LGBTQ refugees to Canada. Please watch the website, our newsletter and our social media for updates.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

1) Be informed: Read up on the situations that cause LGBTQQIA refugees to flee; https://76crimes.com/ offers news and profiles of the more than 76 nations worldwide that practice legal and social persecution of gender and sexual minorities. Read up on Rainbow Railroad, which helps claimants get to Canada. Some of the basic facts about sponsorship apply to LGBTQ sponsorship too, so have a look at the United Church’s overview.

2) What is Canada doing that’s positive? Daily Xtra has offered some excellent coverage of LGBTQ refugee sponsorship; start here for an overview (Why is Canada only now accepting more LGBT asylum claims?) Even on the positive side, howe3ver, there is cause for concern; Xtra notes, “In July 2016, the House immigration committee spent 14 hours looking at whether Canada adequately protects vulnerable immigrants and refugees. LGBT groups testified that refugees fleeing persecution often feel unsafe in cramped camps with people from their home country, and face inappropriate questioning from UN and Canadian officials.”

3) Take action: What is Canada doing that’s harmful? Canada announced in late 2016 that the number of refugees who will be accepted in 2017 will be lowered; ended community sponsorships that enabled smaller churches to formally work with their communities when sponsoring; and continues to share the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which can block refugee claims made to Canada from claimants who first landed in the US. We leave it to you to discuss and discern whether the US is automatically a safe place for any refugees, especially Muslim or LGBTQ claimants (or both).

Saskatchewan Conference is an Affirming ministry, and its Refugee and Local-Global Advocacy networks offered this action in response to the government’s statement that it would not increase numbers of reconsider the Safe Third.

Again, please watch the AUSE newsletter for updates on this important work. And consider whether your congregation might step up to sponsor an LGBTQ person seeking refuge.