US travel ban leaves Iranian LGBT refugees in limbo

limbo

Refugees living in Turkey fear deportation back to Iran as they see the door into the US slammed shut by Trump’s policy. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender refugees from Iran have found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place after Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The order also suspended the US refugee admissions system for 120 days, and promised to prioritise members of religious minorities.

But it made no mention of people facing persecution for their sexual orientation, and several gay Iranians who have fled a country where homosexuality is punishable by death are now left stuck in Turkey, where they say they are experiencing worse homophobic abuses than in their homeland.

Some of the refugees have already had their asylum applications approved by the UN refugee agency and were due to be resettled in the US after months or even years of interviews and security checks.

Mitra, a 27-year-old lesbian living in Denizli, a conservative city in south-west Turkey, left Iran in 2014 after receiving death threats because of her activities as the editor of Aghaliat, an online magazine focusing on LGBT issues.

She was granted refugee status by the UN nearly two years ago, and was due to attend her final interview this month before being resettled in the US. “They have just called me and said it’s all cancelled,” she said.

Until Trump’s ban came into force, the US was the only viable path to safety for gay Iranians who end up in Turkey. Canada no longer accepts them because it is focusing on Syrian refugees. European countries do not normally accept LGBT Iranians who have applied from Turkey.

Like many of her fellow minorities, Mitra was initially approved to go to Canada. “I waited for 14 months, [and] even went through the medical checks but one day they called and said Canada doesn’t accept Iranians anymore and I should go to the US. Now that’s up in the air too.”

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