Canada helps LGBT people escape persecution in Chechnya but further support needed

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      Over the past three months, the Canadian federal government and Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad created a program to help LGBT individuals escape persecution in Chechnya.

      On September 1, Rainbow Railroad, working with the Russian LGBT Network, announced that they have helped 22 gay men and lesbians successfully relocate to Canada over the past three months. Arrangements have been made for a total of 31 individuals thus far, which the Canadian government has granted asylum to, with more expected to arrive.  

      In February, reports emerged that military and government officials in Chechnya detained over 100 people perceived to be LGBT and placed in prison camps where they allegedly faced violence and torture.

      The Chechen government has denied any such persecution has taken place.

      Rainbow Railroad executive director Kimahli Powell explained in a Facebook video and interviews that although they have needed to be discreet about the program, they decided to make an announcement in order to garner the necessary support and resources required to help the new arrivals settle and integrate into Canada. 

      Powell explained that the majority of the new arrivals do not speak English, have undergone traumatic experiences, and are dealing with numerous issues. Consequently, as they will need further support, Powell appealed for donations as his nonprofit organization does not receive funding from the government.

      Powell thanked Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, as well as the government's LGBTQ2 special adviser Randy Boissonnault and immigration minister Ahmed Hussen, for their assistance. He said that they also hope to inspire other governments around the world to take similar action.  

      Like Rainbow Railroad, Vancouver-based organization Rainbow Refugee is another LGBT nonprofit organization that has devotes efforts to assist LGBT people seeking to escape persecution. For more information, visit the Rainbow Refugee website.  

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