One Equal World

Berlin’s New Shelters for LGBT Refugees

Posted on: February 23, 2016

Image: A view of the refugee accomodation at the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin on December 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

Image: A view of the refugee accomodation at the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin on December 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

Germany took in over a million refugees in 2015, mostly from countries in the Middle East, many from countries where homosexuality or being transgender is a crime, or is treated as such. In Syria, same-sex sexual activity is worth three years in jail, and only one person, a woman named Hiba, has ever been granted the right to transition. In Egypt, same-sex activity is not specifically illegal, but it gets categorized under prostitution, which is. In Russia, proposed anti-gay laws have given rise to bands of vigilantes hunting and beating LGBT individuals. Refugees from all these countries have come to Germany, the second most popular immigrant destination in the world.

But while Germany has many legal protections for the queer community, refugees often find the same kind of verbal and physical violence in camps and shelters, from other residents or from security personnel. The stress of crowded conditions and lack of privacy can exacerbate tensions into violence often, and migrants are reluctant to report any attacks for fear of complicating their asylum process.

Germany keeps no centralized statistics on crimes against sexual minorities in vulnerable populations such as migrant centers.

That’s the reason behind the opening of Germany’s first two LGBT-specific migrant shelters. Schwulenberatung advisory centre is responsible for the larger of the two, a 120-bed shelter in Berlin for transgender, lesbian, and gay migrants. They opened on Monday, 22 February, and already have a waiting list, proving that they’ve long been needed. The other shelter opened a few weeks earlier in Nuremburg, but only has eight spaces.

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