As the only organization of its kind in the world that helps LGBTQI+ people suffering persecution relocate to countries of refuge, Rainbow Railroad has seen a sharp increase in demand in the last year as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the situation in countries where LGBTQI+ people are criminalized, says the charity’s executive director Kimahli Powell.
Mr. Powell estimates the global not-for-profit will receive approximately 4,000 requests for help in 2021, the highest number ever for the Toronto-based organization that helps LGBTQI+ people facing persecution that forces them to need to evacuate.
“We are facing an unprecedented crisis where 80 million people are displaced around world – the highest number since the Second World War – and there’s a crisis of governments not being able to commit to resettling more of those refugees,” says Mr. Powell. “Civil society has an important role to play to help in alleviating this crisis, particularly for vulnerable populations like LGBTQI+.”
Rainbow Railroad has helped nearly 150 people through emergency relocation during the pandemic, but also provided other forms of assistance, especially with restrictions on travel.
“We always provided services such as emergency relocation to safe houses, livelihood assistance and access to human rights defenders,” says Mr. Powell. However, even though it currently receives no government funding and relies on community support, Rainbow Railroad was able to build on its existing programming to help more people.
In addition to the practical assistance Rainbow Railroad provides, it also works with a global network of activists and human rights defenders advocating for LGBTQI+ rights in countries around the world.
More information: rainbowrailroad.org
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