Unfortunately, for many LGBTQ people around the world, the notion of “home” is stripped of its meaning by prejudice, blind hatred and violence. What happens when your “home” turns against you – when your tormenters include your family members, the very people sleeping in the next room?
Today, 2.79 billion people still live in countries where being gay can lead to prison or death. That’s 7 times as many as live in countries that allow same-sex marriage. LGBTQ people living in the 77 countries where it is illegal to be gay are subjected to “corrective” action, including rape by government officials, public humiliation and even the death penalty. They face physical attacks and emotional trauma on a daily basis.
This devastating reality causes many persecuted LGBTQ people to seek asylum in the U.S. There are approximately 300,000 LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. LGBTQ asylum seekers come to the U.S. in pursuit of safety, dignity and happiness. They come in search of a “home.”
However, upon their arrival in the U.S., LGBTQ asylum seekers continue to face a severe lack of information and resources. Many have nowhere to go, no social support and end up homeless. It typically takes one year for asylum seekers to obtain a work permit. Only after receiving a permit can they work in the U.S. and they are never entitled to a free government attorney.
To seek asylum is really equivalent to searching for a “home.” It represents the courageous act of giving up everything familiar in order to obtain the comfort of safety and security that so many of us take for granted.
Co-founded in July of 2014, AsylumConnect is a volunteer initiative that seeks to provide this marginalized population with lifesaving online informational resources. AsylumConnect strives to make LGBTQ asylum seekers feel at “home” in the U.S. through offering holistic support. Our model emphasizes connection – we strive to empower LGBTQ asylum seekers through information. We are creating the first online, centralized database of service providers useful to LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. The AsylumConnect catalog will help LGBTQ asylum seekers find basic human needs resources upon their arrival in the U.S. We are piloting our catalog model in Seattle, Washington.
The version 2.0 of the AsylumConnect catalog is now live for the Seattle area. A revised catalog platform features improved search capacity, information visualization and aesthetics to help connect catalog users with useful resources in their area. The launch marks the beginning of a testing and observation period during which AsylumConnect staff will assess the efficacy and accessibility of the catalog, and engage with users to guide quality improvement. Lessons from this pilot will be applied to future versions of the catalog, and eventually towards expansion of the catalog into other U.S. cities. Our long-term vision is to transform how LGBTQ asylum seekers connect with basic human needs service providers in the U.S.
By unfolding and changing the stories of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S, this initiative is fighting to give asylum seekers the dignity and the basic human right to live authentically as well as the agency to empower themselves to be their own heroes.
To learn more about the AsylumConnect catalog 2.0 visit: asylumconnectcatalog.org.
Connect with AsylumConnect on Facebook (facebook.com/asylumconnect), Twitter (@AsylumConnect) and Instagram (@asylumconnect).