Over the past weeks, LGBT history month has been celebrated across communities around the country, and we are now well into it. Given the scope of our work, we are also proud to be celebrating this month at IARS, alongside many people who are also dedicated to and contribute towards making sure that EVERYBODIES basic needs and human rights are upheld. This also includes their free choice of identity, dignity and respect.

Although most of the legal barriers against LGBT community appear to have been overcome, it is important to avoid neglecting the bigger picture. Whilst this month should also be about reflecting on some of the major achievements in LGBT history, we also want to ensure there are more to celebrate.

Through our Epsilon project, we are aiming to equip professionals, including volunteers working in services for LGBT asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, towards supporting LGBT migrants and refugees across 5 EU states by identifying their most current and urgent needs, some even reaching on issues of survival, dignity and respect. It will also help them challenge their own biases and improve their skills in providing tailored and culturally sensitive services. Our goal in this project, is to contribute towards developing a necessary awareness and sensitivity to the needs of all those with an LGBT background. The need for the development of such training programme is also highlighted at top level by all competent organisations such as UNHCR and the EP.

It is true that LGBT asylum seekers are often at risk of additional danger during their journey and upon arrival in the country where they seek asylum, which can take the form of harassment, exclusion, sexual violence, or other forms of violence. UNHCR’s 2015 report clearly showed that LGBT people are subject to severe social exclusion and violence in reception centres, and especially in camp settings, which has also been acknowledged by a report of the European Parliament (10.02.16) on the situation of women and LGBT refugees and asylum seekers in the EU. This is why we wanted to use LGBT history month to not only point at achievements that need to be celebrated, but also to remember why we must continue to stand up. Nevertheless, we are happy to not be alone in this.

This blog post was written by Dilara Efe, the Equalities Projects Intern at IARS