Queer Africans fleeing Ukraine face ‘grave danger’ even after reaching ‘so-called safe countries’
Queer African people fleeing Ukraine are facing “intersecting violence”, campaigners have warned.
More than one million people have fled Ukraine since Russia declared war. However, not all refugees are being treated equally.
There have been widespread reports of racism at the border against Black people, including African refugees, as well as other people of colour.
Ukrainian border officials and the military have singled Black people out: pushing them to the ends of long lines often separated by race, barring them from boarding trains, giving them stale food and even beating them with batons.
Many have been stopped from crossing the border. White Ukrainians, meanwhile, are let through.
“When the Ukraine crisis unfolded and folks fled for safety, white supremacy manifested as basic human rights were refused to refugees, we knew queer Africans would face intersecting violence,” Faris Cuchi Gezahegn, co-founder of House of Guramayle, told PinkNews.
A Twitter post by the House of Guramayle further explains: “On top of their Blackness, their queer identity will put them in grave danger since the so-called ‘safe’ countries are not queer-friendly.”
The organisation, a community-led activist group for queer Ethiopians, is working with Afro Rainbow Austria, which campaigns for African LGBT+ people in Austria, to mobilise support for queer African people who are being impacted.
Afro Rainbow Austria and House of Guramayle are joining hands to mobilize community resources and provide help to Queer African siblings who are leaving Ukraine for safety. Find the forms by click the link ??https://t.co/njYf2Y5HIY pic.twitter.com/9dcoASKXO5
— House of Guramayle (@HoGuramayle) February 28, 2022
“It is very critical for us to mobilise community resources that centre queer Africans, starting from accommodation that is hosted by queer folks at best or at least queer allies,” Gezahegn explained.
“We want to make funds accessible so that our queer siblings have the capacity to find their safety in dignify way and also to mobilise safer transportation or route.”
They added: “The majority of them right now are in flight or fight mode which will hinder their ability to disclose who they are and seek help.”
House of Guramayle and Afro Rainbow Austria are asking those who can to circulate a form for queer Africans in need of support. They are also calling on those with the resources, such as food, shelter and legal counsel, to make themselves known, so that they can be connected with those in need.
Many fleeing Ukraine will seek asylum in “so-called safe countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Romania,” Gezahegn said, but “these are not safe countries for queer folk” due to anti-LGBT+ laws and sentiment.
Some will hide who they are, “passing” for straight or cisgender. But not everyone has this option. “Trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks are immensely in danger,” Gezahegn stressed, “and we really emphasize the gravity of the danger they are exposed to.”
“We are trying our best to reach our queer siblings,” Gezahegn said, “but from experience, so much unfortunate news will unfold.
“We are trying to prepare to hold them with softness, tenderness, kindness, care, and the love they deserve.”
Stas Mishchenko, a member of the board of Kyiv Pride, told PinkNews that in Ukraine, LGBT+ people have long concealed who they are. It’s survival, he said, given that marriage equality, same-sex adoption and anti-discrimination protections are non-existent.
“If this situation had happened 10 years ago, I would have said that LGBTQI Ukrainians flee from homophobic Ukraine to more safe Poland and Hungary,” Mishchenko said.
“Since then the situation in our country has been improving slowly but steadily, while our neighbours have had a conservative backlash.”
Trans Ukrainians, in particular, have described feeling trapped in Ukraine, with reports of trans women with incorrect gender markers on their passports being turned away at the border.
Men and any other person with a male gender marker on their documents aged between 18 and 60 have been banned from leaving the country, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine announced last week. Trans women without accurate gender markers are left unable to cross the border and dread conscription.
Even for those who do manage to escape, their problems will continue.
“Access to medicine for hormone therapy and other needs is very limited for refugees in countries on arrival,” he said.
“In the case of rainbow families, which are unrecognized in Ukraine, we can have a situation where the biological ‘official’ parent dies or is injured, and the other parent doesn’t have any possibility to stay as the kids’ guardian.
“By the papers – they are nobody to each other.”
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