The UK must ensure LGBTQ+ Afghan refugees are prioritised for resettlement

Under the Taliban, being LGBT means extrajudicial killings and the death penalty. The UK must ensure the integration and safety of LGBT + Afghans throughout the resettlement process.

There is a long history of LGBT people in Afghanistan being disproportionately targeted and subjected to homophobic sexual violence, forced marriage, honor killings, conversion practices and executions.

Under the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the death penalty for consensual same-sex behavior was imposed under the 2017 Afghan Penal Code. Even before the Taliban took control last month, there were no organizations or networks that defend LGBT people.

Now, the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has led us into hiding out of fear. Under the Taliban, just being LGBT means extrajudicial execution and the government-sanctioned death penalty.

The Taliban’s position on the death penalty for same-sex relationships is clear. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, in July 2021, Taliban judge Gul Rahim said: “For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: stoning or standing behind a wall that falls on him. The height of the wall must be between 2.5 and 3 meters.

Even homosexuals and Afghans who have fled to neighboring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan remain in grave danger. Many will not be sure of progress within these countries and will identify because their families and communities can be the source of their persecution and officials in host countries can also be a danger.

Family reunification requests must respond to all family configurations, including those of LGBTQI + families

The UK government must hold and hold to account those in Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to ensure that its borders are opened, that those in need of protection are not mistreated and that emergency humanitarian support is guaranteed to those in need in all stages of their migration.

The UK is rightly one of many countries offering Afghan refugee resettlement. However, I would also like the UK to play a leading role in ensuring that LGBT + people are prioritized in all resettlement programs and that their needs are met.

To do this, I would like the UK government to immediately bring together partner governments, refugee organizations and LGBTQI + civil society organizations, to ensure the integration and safety of LGBTQI + Afghans throughout the resettlement process.

In 2017, the UK Home Office was criticized for its guidance, stating that “a practicing homosexual who, upon returning to Kabul, will not attract or seek to provoke public outrage, will not face any real risk of persecution.” This directive was used to deny asylum applications by LGBT Afghans and to justify their deportation to Afghanistan.

The UK government must immediately ensure that no LGBT + Afghan refugees from the UK are being assessed and returned to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This means that the UK government must immediately make it clear that LGBTI + asylum seekers are not bound by the 2017 Home Office guidance that they would be safe for deportation to Afghanistan if they “did not cause public outrage”.

The UK government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) for refugees from Syria has been highly praised for its focus on the most vulnerable. When the program was launched, the government promised to accept LGBTI refugees, but no data was available from the government or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to confirm whether LGBTQI + refugees had been resettled in the UK.

I want the UK government to ensure that LGBT people are included in UNHCR’s priority setting file, to resettle refugees from Afghanistan and with a specific and accountable process for that community to access protection and resettlement that meet your needs.

I welcome the prioritization of vulnerable people under the ACRS scheme and the inclusion of LGBT people and personalities again. However, the UK government must ensure that family reunification requests cater to all family configurations, including LGBTQI + families. For example, recognizing that Afghans who have same-sex partners will not be able to obtain legal recognition for their relationships.

Ultimately, the UK government has a duty to ensure that resettlement plans and policies are as multiple as the diversity of people. I urge the UK government to increase support and prioritize the LGBTQI + community in its immediate, medium and long-term eviction and resettlement efforts.