What motivates us?

  • 71 countries and jurisdictions around the world criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity.

  • In 12 jurisdictions the death penalty is imposed or at least a possibility for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and UAE. 

  • There are even more countries in which social persecution of LGBTQ people is rampant. Persecution can include: extreme bullying, extortion, blackmail, torture, rape, honour killing, and denial of work, education, housing or other basic needs.  

  • LGBTQ refugees are often at risk in the countries to which they have fled. Many host countries are themselves extremely homophobic and transphobic. Discrimination comes from governments, citizens, and even other refugees. 

  • Of the nearly 30 million refugees in today's world only a fraction are LGBTQ, but they are often in grave danger, even in the countries where they seek refuge. And they almost always lack traditional family support. 

  • Alone we cannot change the world. But the fact that we care can inspire change. One person at a time, we demonstrate our common humanity.


Refugee Process for Persons Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE)

It is not an easy process to find a safe refuge if you are a persecuted sexual or gender minority person. It can take many years and you will have to face many difficult barriers for the chance to express yourself without fear. Here is a crash course in what SOGIE refugees have to go through in order to resettle in a safe country.


STEP 1: Self-Awareness as a SOGIE person in environments of persecution


  • Many people in repressive countries are hindered from developing the insight, confidence or even the language to self-describe themselves as a SOGIE person. Words are often barriers to self-awareness and self-acceptance.

  • In all the major world languages words that are used to describe sexual and gender minority people often resonate with extremely negative meanings.

  • Family and broader social pressures to conform to sex assigned at birth and to participate in heterosexual life including marriage may result in submerged self-identity.

  • Without positive role models and supports, many people lack the confidence to identify as a sexual or gender minority person.

  • Objects of senseless hate and vicious persecution, a SOGIE person may live in denial and self-loathing. They may experience shame, guilt, embarrassment and carry secrets.

  • Many who have come to terms with their gender or sexuality live in constant fear of being outed.

STEP 2: Learning there are better options


  • Many SOGIE people suffer abuse in schools, and do not complete their education or have poor educational outcomes. Depending on the country, this may be disproportionally affect girls.

  • With a poor education it is difficult to learn about the refugee process.

  • It may be difficult to use text-based information sources about alternative options, such as the internet, especially if the source is English.

  • Many, probably most persecuted persons are not aware of their right to seek refuge in another country.

  • When they learn that others have successfully escaped persecution and that a better life is possible, they realize there is hope and that they may have some options.

STEP 3: Getting  out of their home country


  • Leaving is often very difficult.

  • Flight to a safe country requires knowledge, confidence, and often money and a visa.

  • Many SOGIE people do not finish school because of severe bullying. Without an education they may never have the skills and financial resources to move to a safer country.

  • To break family ties is unthinkable to many. And no one readily chooses the inevitable risks, isolation and financial insecurity of being a refugee in a foreign country, vulnerable and where you are often not allowed to work. 

  • Some countries that persecute SOGIE people are surrounded by neighbours with equally repressive regimes. If suddenly faced with an urgent need to escape, persecuted SOGIE people have little choice but to cross the border into another homophobic country.

  • There are many homophobic and transphobic countries that are surrounded by similar countries where you cannot make a refugee claim based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

STEP 4: Getting recognized as a refugee

  • If a person does manage to escape their country of origin they may be able to seek asylum.

  • Many countries do not recognize refugees based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. 

  • May countries do not make it easy to be recognized as a refugee because they are concerned that doing so creates a ‘pull factor’ to others who may follow.

  • Not everyone is successful in convincing the UNHCR or the country to which they have fled that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and that returning home is not an option.

  • Once they have fled to a second country, the person may not be allowed to work, attend school or language classes, or obtain secure housing.

  • Some turn to illegal labour or even prostitution just to survive.

  • It is not uncommon to experience even more intense persecution based on SOGIE in the country to which the person has fled.

STEP 5: Finding a permanent solution


  • Some countries to which SOGIE refugees flee, especially people who have educational and financial means, allow them to find a safe and permanent home.

  • However, many countries will not allow them to permanently settle. Refugees may need to ask for permission to settle in a safe third country. The number of third country resettlement opportunities have dramatically decreased in the past few years while the number of refugees, including SOGIE refugees, have dramatically increased.

  • This scarcity creates huge challenges for the UNHCR who have to prioritize the limited opportunities among many people with the most urgent needs for resettlement.

  • It is for this reason that the private sponsorship of refugees, such as sponsorships provided through ROAR sponsorship groups are so important to decrease the burden of suffering.

  • You are lucky if you are selected for resettlement by the UNHCR, or by the government of the secondary country to which you have fled, or by a private sponsorship group. Resettled refugees most often do not choose their permanent home country.


STEP 6: Waiting for a decision about resettlement 


  • Refugees apply and then wait for an interview with embassy staff. In a painfully long process, Canada screens them to make sure they meet the criteria of the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program.

  • Refugees undergo medical, criminal and security screening. Not every person referred by the UNHCR is accepted for resettlement in Canada.

  • Refugees may wait a year, two years, or much longer until they are accepted into Canada. During this time they must try to find a way to live — not an easy task.

  • They may also need an exit visa from the country in which they live as temporary residents. In some circumstances people are denied the opportunity to exit after all this effort and waiting.

  • Finally, after this long ordeal, a phone call informs them that a flight has been arranged for them.  

STEP 7: Settling in Canada

  • When the resettled refugee arrives in Canada they are given permanent resident status. They have reached safety.

  • While many newcomers have the support of family and ethnocultural and religious organizations, most SOGIE newcomers do not.

  • Now they have to start their life all over again. They often don’t know anyone in Canada. The vast majority speak only rudimentary English or French. They need to find a place to live, get a job, and learn to speak, read and write, often with little help.

  • Getting health care, finding transportation, managing the weather, and dealing with all the intricate customs and rules of a foreign country: these are all things that we take for granted every day, but they are real challenges for many newcomers.