With the background of the latest news about persecution of gay men in Chechnya, and the growing number of LGBT people from Arab countries requesting refuge in Israel, the Israeli LGBT Task Force relaunched the Facebook page for its LGBT Refugees Program.
The program provides Palestinians, Africans, Israelis from minority groups and LGBT refugees in Israel with a variety of services and facilities: legal assistance; psychological, social and financial support; and fundamental tools such as access to health care and employment.
Despite Israel being “a haven in the Middle East” as far as LGBT rights, LGBT people who seek asylum face many difficulties in the country. “Of the nearly 41,000 asylum seekers currently in Israel, the vast majority from Eritrea and Sudan, only 10 Eritreans and two Sudanese have refugee status,” Orit Marom of the ASF, an organization that assists refugees and asylum seekers, told Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot in March. According to her, until 2013 Israel didn’t allow Eritreans and Sudanese to file asylum requests, and made do with refraining from deporting them. It then began a formal review process, but it is ineffective.
The LGBT Refugees Program of The Aguda was established in October 2015, with support from the UNHCR, to protect and assist LGBT people who ask for asylum in Israel. LGBT asylum seekers and refugees are a marginalized minority, often exposed to violence and other serious issues to do with the environment they live in, such as loneliness and dealing with their complicated legal situation.
However, the volunteers at the Aguda try to help LGBT refugees using their resources, connections and past experience. Besides publishing stories of refugees on its Facebook page, the program also collects donations of sheets and blankets as well as other help from the local LGBT community.