The Human Rights Campaign has released a powerful new video for yesterday’s World Refugee Day, in which a gay asylum seeker tells his story of fleeing his home country.
Robel Hailu is the co-founder and director of support and advocacy group Ethiopian LGBTI.
“The country where I belong, being gay is a crime,” said Hailu in the video.
“They don’t want me to be there, so I have to flee from the country.”
Hailu said that part of the Ethiopian criminal code specifies that homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years.
“I don’t have a right to go back home, and I’m seeking asylum,” he said.
“I’m scared [to go back].”
He said that being a gay asylum seeker is especially difficult.
“You need to provide evidence you are gay,” he said.
Hailu said that homophobic persecution is kept under wraps by the state, so many people outside of Ethiopia don’t know about the LGBTI community’s struggles.
“I don’t think [being] in love with someone needs to be a crime,” he said.
He called for LGBTI people in developed countries with more freedoms to remember that others in the world face serious dangers for their identities.
“Always they need to remember they have brothers and sisters out there, actually they are looking for someone to help them, to listen to them, to fight with them,” Hailu said.
HRC president Chad Griffin called on Americans to stand up against the government’s treatment of migrants and refugees.
“On World Refugee Day—and every day—the Human Rights Campaign stands in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are [LGBTI],” he said.
“As the Trump–Pence administration turns away people fleeing barbaric persecution and unconscionably rips away children from their immigrant parents at the border, Americans must stand united in sending a powerful message that their cruel actions do not represent our values.
“We are a proud nation of immigrants, and refugees should be welcome here.”
In Australia, reports have emerged of LGBTI asylum seekers suffering on Manus Island and Nauru, living in fear of disclosing their identities.
Despite the hardships they already face, the federal government last month raised concerns that making it easier for LGBTI refugees to seek asylum would lead to a flood of people claiming fraudulently to be gay.
Advocacy groups have called on LGBTI Australians to stand with asylum seekers and continue fighting for their rights.