Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘ORAM’

Survey indicates NGOs often fail to adequately protect LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 21, 2012

The first survey of attitudes of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) serving asylum-seekers and refugees worldwide indicates that they often fail to adequately protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) refugees and asylum seekers. NGOs are placing these refugees and asylum seekers in housing where they are exposed to violence, and the refugees and asylum seekers are often compelled to hide the true reason they were persecuted, thus putting their legal status based on persecution in jeopardy. The survey, done by the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration and Indiana University sociologists, is discussed in an article in the Windy City Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — As increasing numbers of refugees flee persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration and Indiana University sociologists have released the first survey of attitudes of non-governmental organizations serving asylum-seekers and refugees worldwide.

NGOs provide crucial support and protection for refugees, including essential medical, legal, housing and educational services. The survey, co-authored by researchers in the Department of Sociology in IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, found that NGOs often fail to adequately protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex refugees and asylum seekers. Many NGOs ignore the refugees’ plights or are ill-equipped to work with LGBTI people. Those gaps were identified across the globe but were starkest in countries where protection is most needed…

Neil Grungras, executive director of ORAM, said refugees fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity face further harm from the culture of silence in the international refugee protection system.

“They are placed in housing where they are exposed to violence, or are compelled to hide the true reason they were persecuted, which puts their legal status in jeopardy,” he said. “Among the most pervasively and violently persecuted in the world, LGBTI individuals are virtually invisible in the international refugee protection realm.”

IU sociologist Oren Pizmony-Levy described a “vicious cycle.”

“Many NGOs do not welcome LGBTI refuges, and the asylum seekers don’t approach them,” he said. “NGOs think that persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not serious, and NGOs tend to overlook the problem.”… Read more here

Posted in LGBT refugees, NGO's (Non-governmental organizations), ORAM | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

General Code of Conduct for Working with Refugees, Asylees, and Asylum Seekers

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 2, 2012

Reading through ORAM’s new guide on assisting LGBTI refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers I found a code of conduct to focus on when assisting these people. It seems that this list of principles would also be highly useful in assisting any person or group of refugees or asylees, and therefore worth posting here:.

Demonstrate Kindness, Patience, and Sensitivity: Maintain a kind and patient attitude towards refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers. Remain sensitive to the fact that most of them are continuing to heal from psychological and physical scars left by traumatic experiences.

Be Aware of Power Disparities: Do not assume an equal footing between you and the refugee, asylee, or asylum seeker. Act consciously to put yourself in the refugee’s situation before making a request of this individual.

Understand Your Friendship from the Refugee’s Perspective: Remember that with scant resources in their new country, refugees are particularly vulnerable and may feel obligated to say or do things that they otherwise would not in order to secure your continued friendship and support.

Avoid Conflicts of Interest: Avert situations pitting your interests (including financial ones) against those of the refugee.

Respect Differing Cultures, Religions, and Beliefs: Demonstrate respect for differing cultural and religious backgrounds and practices. Do not proselytize or attempt to convert the refugee to your own religious, cultural, or political beliefs, even if you believe you are acting in the refugee’s best interest.

Support Autonomy: Support the refugee’s ability to make independent decisions. Affirm that refugees bring much to [their new community and friends] and to their new country.

Value Refugees’ Contributions: Remember that refugees are defined not by their needs, but by the contributions they do and will make to their new communities.

Communicate Honestly: Always communicate honestly, even when doing so is difficult.

Demonstrate Accountability: Fulfill all commitments once they are agreed to.

Protect the Refugee from Discrimination: Identify discrimination against the refugee, whether based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, nationality, or any other grounds. Stand up for the refugee.

Respect Interpersonal Boundaries: Respect the refugee’s right to personal privacy. Refrain from becoming physically or romantically intimate with the refugee…

Safeguard Confidentiality: Keep [confidential] all potentially sensitive or private information about the refugee…unless otherwise instructed by the refugee being helped. Confidentiality extends to the personal history, medical status, financial arrangements, and other dimensions of the refugee’s life. Maintaining confidentiality is particularly important for asylum seekers and for refugees awaiting resettlement, as they have not yet secured or reached a place of safety. Read more here

Posted in best practices, LGBT refugees, ORAM | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORAM releases first ever guide on welcoming LGBTI migrants

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 29, 2012

ORAM (the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration) has released the first ever guide for American LGBT and accepting communities on welcoming people fleeing persecution in their home countries, according to a recent email announcement from ORAM.

Rainbow Bridges, a 48-page guide developed in a pilot project to resettle LGBT refugees in San Francisco, offers practical step-by-step guidance on welcoming new refugees, ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, and helping them find support in their new communities. It includes sample forms, a suggested code of conduct, and outlines the avenues for refugees to receive housing, employment, and federal assistance…

…ORAM estimates the US receives about 2,000 refugees a year who are fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, representing 6% of all refugees in America. Unlike other refugees, those who are LGBT or intersex often undergo the integration process alone, facing exclusion from the religious and immigrant communities that form the safety net for most newly arrived refugees and asylees. Rainbow Bridges will help U.S. LGBT, faith-based, and welcoming communities support these refugees as they build new lives in the United States…

About ORAM
The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) is the only organization focused exclusively on helping vulnerable LGBTI refugees worldwide find safety and rebuild their lives in welcoming communities. ORAM increases global support for refugees and asylum seekers through advocacy and education, as well as technical assistance to people and groups interested in working with refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers…

The report notes that resettlement agencies, “are unaccustomed to the isolation and challenges LGBTI refugees face and are unfamiliar with their unique needs. Many [resettlement agencies] lack the training and resources needed to effectively serve this vulnerable group. Perhaps most importantly, no [resettlement agency] has the resources or capacity to successfully integrate an individual without support from family or community.” This is an important point when you stop to think of all the other refugees resettled without support from family or community, e.g. the 3000+ Sudanese “Lost Boys” refugees.

Posted in best practices, LGBT refugees, ORAM, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First refugees resettled due to anti-gay persecution abroad

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 1, 2011

A 30-year-old gay Ugandan refugee named Daniel, displaced specifically due to anti-LGBTI persecution, is one of the first refugees resettled to the US in recognition of that fact. U.S.-based evangelical movements assisted in Daniel’s persecution in Uganda. An article in the Contra Costa Times has the story:

OAKLAND — Being gay in Uganda was never easy for gospel singer Daniel Dyson, but the anti-gay hysteria that erupted in the African nation two years ago forced him to flee.

Prominent Christian pastors had launched a political movement to eliminate homosexuality in the country. They employed professed ex-gays to reveal the names, whereabouts and other identifying details of gay residents in Kampala, the capital city. Dyson was on the list…

...Dyson, who landed in the Bay Area in the spring, is among the first refugees the United States has invited to live in California specifically because of anti-gay persecution abroad. The nonprofit groups that helped him move here — Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay and the San Francisco-based Organization for Refuge Asylum and Migration — are among the first in the country to take sexual orientation into account in the way they integrate refugees into a new community, aware that the ethnic communities and extended families most refugees rely on for support won’t necessarily accommodate them…

…”They were saying that we were destroying African culture, so I went to the media houses, trying to educate people that gay people, we are African people, we are here,” he said.

He had been involved in low-profile lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activism for more than five years, but the barrage of venom grew in 2009. On his way back from a radio station that spring, armed men kidnapped and brutally assaulted Dyson, he said, leaving injuries from which he is still recovering. He fled across the Kenyan border several days later…

…Uganda is debating whether to imprison gays and execute those with “aggravated homosexuality” offenses. The lawmaker who proposed the bill and other Ugandan anti-gay activists have close ties to U.S.-based evangelical movements, though many American pastors have since distanced themselves from the bill and its proponents.

As more countries threaten to penalize homosexuality with jail or death, the United States and United Nations are breaking down some of the institutional barriers that prevent many gays, lesbians and transgender people from seeking refuge. Most of those awarded refugee status belong to a political, ethnic or religious groups and are in danger in their homeland and have no place to live safely. LGBT status also can be considered a social class in countries where gays and lesbians have a well-founded fear of persecution.

“It hasn’t been a legal obstacle in a long time, but there have been enormous systemic obstacles,” said Neil Grungras, director of the nonprofit Organization for Refuge Asylum and Migration. “Few people, extremely few people, said this is the reason I’m being persecuted. We’re trying to make the system more open, less blocked.”…

…”I don’t know what it’s like for him every day. He carries a lot of pain around. Those scars just never really go away,” Grungras said… Read more here

Posted in LGBT refugees, ORAM, San Francisco, Ugandan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

First pilot resettlement program for refugees fleeing sexual & gender-based violence

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2011

ORAM (Organization for Refuge Asylum & Migration) has began a pilot refugee resettlement program out of their Bay Area office, according to the blog LezGet Real: A Gay Girl’s View of the World (Note: 6-15-11 – this blog turns out to have been written by a male). Currently ORAM is reaching out to the local community to ask for assistance with housing for a gay Ugandan refugee.

Melanie Nathan – Jan 12-2011 – SAN FRANCISCO – ORAM, the first migration organization focusing exclusively on refugees fleeing sexual and gender-based violence worldwide, has began a pilot resettlement program out of their Bay Area office. This service will add to the new network spanning national, ethnic, religious, racial and gender divides, as ORAM provides clients with free legal representation and conducts advocacy and education on their behalf.

Today the group – an imperative resource for LGBT refugees, is reaching out to the Bay Area for help, with an urgent call to for housing for a Gay Ugandan Refugee. The young man (approximately late 20’s-30’s) has fled Uganda and is being legally directed to San Francisco, where he will receive assistance from ORAM and some financial support from the US Government. He will be seeking employment as soon as he arrives. He will have a stipend and medical coverage – the most difficult to arrange is a place to stay…. Read more here

For more information about ORAM click here. Here is a posting from August about an article on ORAM.

Posted in LGBT refugees, Oakland, ORAM, San Francisco, sexual and gender-based violence - refugees fleeing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration assists LGBTI refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 28, 2010

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM) is a group based in San Francisco that is working to help LGBTI refugees who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. The Bay Area Reporter has an article detailing the work of the organization.

A little known agency founded two years ago in San Francisco is helping to shine a spotlight on the plight of LGBT refugees around the globe who are fleeing persecution in their home countries.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration, called ORAM for short, is the brainchild of Neil Grungras, an openly gay lawyer who specializes in immigration and refuge law whose career has included stints with the State Department and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Since founding ORAM in 2008, Grungras has devoted himself full time to growing the nonprofit. He oversees its program in Turkey for LGBT Iranians seeking to immigrate to Western countries and lobbies United Nations officials in Geneva about the needs of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees from around the globe.

“No one had touched on the issues of LGBT refugees, period, from a legal perspective. No one had confronted the reason why the international system does not protect LGBT refugees,” said Grungras…

Unlike more established groups that advocate on behalf of LGBT people within their home countries, such at Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, ORAM is focused on what happens once an LGBT person crosses the border to a foreign country.

“People constantly ask us to comment about the situation of gays in various countries but that is not what we do. We help people who have actually left the places where they have been persecuted and help them get refugee status and some legal protection and get settled in a new country,” said Grungras. “We don’t make it our business to focus on persecution in the country of origin. We are a humanitarian organization who helps people who have left their country. Of course we know what is going on, but our mission is to help our brothers and sisters reach safety.”

…”Who ORAM works with is the 95 percent of LGBTs who haven’t been able to get anywhere. They have crossed the border to get out with their lives and that is where they are. But they are not looking to stay in those places,” said Grungras. “When they come to our hands, they are just beginning a very long road to find safe haven. Sometimes they won’t have it for a few years.” …

…This year ORAM has a budget of $650,000. As of June it had a caseload of 35 active clients, five of whom are now living in the United States. Two are in Texas, two in Arizona, and one is living in Florida.

It has three lawyers, including Grungras, working full-time on cases, and a handful of other staffers helping to process and coordinate its caseload.

This summer ORAM opened an office in downtown San Francisco and received $150,000 from the Arcus Foundation to survey numerous non-governmental organizations about their attitudes toward LGBT refugees and what services they offer such clients.

The agency has also launched an “Adopt-a-Refugee” program where it matches donors with one of its clients. Participants must donate $500 in order to be matched with a refugee, and ORAM will provide updates on the person’s immigration case.

The money donated is transferred directly to the adoptee, who can also opt to be in contact with their “adopter” and communicate directly via e-mail or social networking sites such as Facebook.

…Since many LGBT immigrants lack the support of family, the program is a way to help them create new support networks.

“LGBTs are often running away from their family, so to know there is an individual out there who cares enough to open their wallets and give a person money, that is really empowering to them,” said Grungras. here

I wrote to Mr. Grungras several months back, when we posted the case of the two gay Iraqi refugees that were neglected by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Houston, to ask him if it was normal for refugees who are resettled to the US based on their LGBTI status to be assigned to resettlement organizations who offer no services to LGBTI people. And in the Houston case, no services to these refugees who claimed to have been sexually assaulted.

Mr. Grungras said that only just beginning in April did it became possible for OPEs (Overseas Processing Entities) to show refugees’ persecution status in the WRAPS [computer] system. He said that before this the only information about refugees given to resettlement agencies was gender, age, nationality, and special medical issues.

That being the case I hope that LGBTI refugees will no longer be placed with gay-unfriendly groups such as Catholic and fundamentalist Christian resettlement groups.

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Houston, Iraqi, LGBT refugees, ORAM | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »