Human Rights Campaign Joins National Advocacy Organizations in Urging Biden-Harris Administration to Protect LGBTQI Afghans

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) joined five other national advocacy organizations in an appeal urging the Biden administration to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans following the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan.

HRC — along with the Council for Global Equality, Immigration Equality, IRAP, Rainbow Railroad, and ORAM — layout ten policy recommendations designed to improve the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans, who have long been the target of extreme hostility and punishment by the Taliban.

The new regime in Afghanistan — and its strict interpretation of Sharia law — has raised international concerns regarding the safety of vulnerable populations, particularly women, religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTQI Afghans as well as Americans and foreign nationals who remain in the country.

Even though same-sex conduct was already criminalized before the Taliban took control, the new regime’s mandate to rule using Sharia law makes the fate of LGBTQI Afghans even more precarious and subject to the death penalty. An exodus of LGBTQI refugees has commenced and will likely expand.

We urge President Biden to take steps to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghan refugees, who are extraordinarily vulnerable and at-risk under the new Taliban regime.

The United States has long served as a beacon of refuge and asylum for those fleeing persecution simply for who they are or who they love. These steps will save lives, and now is the time for them to be adopted."

JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs

The appeal, which was sent to President Biden on September 2, urges his administration to adopt ten policy positions to increase its immediate-, medium-, and long-term efforts on behalf of the vulnerable LGBTQI community in Afghanistan. The policy recommendations are:

  1. Prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.
  2. Provide and effectively implement explicit “Priority 2” (P-2) access to the U.S. refugee program for the highly vulnerable population of LGBTQI individuals fleeing Afghanistan. Waive the application fee for any LGBTQI Afghan applying to relocate to the United States on an expedited basis via humanitarian parole and look favorably upon those emergency requests. Initiate a new program of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghans in the United States, including those paroled into the United States on an emergency basis.
  3. Ensure that existing lists that have been collected by various governments of at-risk Afghans, including those who wish to flee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are carefully safeguarded so that they do not fall into Taliban or third-country hands and are not used to target individuals or family members. Use the lists as a basis for expedited P1 or P2 refugee processing or humanitarian parole for those who seek protection abroad.
  4. Lift or expand the FY 2022 refugee cap of 125,000 refugees accepted into the United States.
  5. Work with our allies to coordinate refugee protection for LGBTQI Afghans, open avenues to other countries for migration and asylum, and provide assistance to neighboring countries that have acted as points of first entry for thousands of refugees as well as countries where LGBTQI Afghan refugees will be processed.
  6. Provide funding to support the temporary housing, livelihoods, and security of LGBTQI refugees in third countries while they are being processed for refugee resettlement in the United States or elsewhere.
  7. Recognize NGOs that have been reliable partners in identifying and recommending LGBTQI Afghans to the State Department for protection and instruct U.S. embassies to process LGBTQI refugee applications on-site when referred by these designated partners.
  8. Recognize for the purposes of refugee relocation, humanitarian parole, or any other entry into the United States any same-sex Afghan partner as a spouse. Take an equally expansive view of the definition of family for LGBTQI relocation given the lack of legal recognition for LGBTQI partnerships in the region.
  9. Expand LGBTQI-sensitive resettlement programs in the United States and engage with NGOs and local communities to expand the U.S. capacity to absorb larger numbers of LGBTQI Afghan refugees in supportive and inclusive environments, including through new refugee sponsorship programs.
  10. Speak out forcefully against human rights abuses by the new Taliban regime and any increased targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people, and use existing mechanisms to sanction and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuse. Negotiate explicit human rights monitoring access, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities including LGBTQI Afghans, when the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is renewed by the Security Council later this month.

It’s time for the Biden Administration to shift from statements of concern to meaningful action to support this incredibly at-risk community of LGBTQI Afghan refugees. This ten-point plan will provide the basis for expedited refugee processing, transitional support, and LGBTQI-affirming resettlement... it will save lives if it’s implemented quickly and effectively."

Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council for Global Equality

The LGBTQI Afghans we are hearing from are terrified, and they are desperate. The Biden administration must do everything in its power to make it possible for LGBTQ Afghans to live without fear of being harmed for who they are. They are in mortal danger. With so many innocent lives at stake, the U.S. must immediately facilitate the relocation of LGBTQ refugees from Afghanistan."

Aaron C. Morris, Immigration Equality Executive Director

HRC has launched an issue brief and webpage with more information on the LGBTQI Afghan community and ways that people can help.

Help save LGBTQI Afghan lives

Tell President Biden to adopt this life-saving 10-point action plan NOW.

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