Glamour-President Trump’s decision to sign an executive order halting all U.S. refugee admissions for 120 days, while suspending Syrians indefinitely, has thrown scores of people hoping to enter the U.S. into uncertainty. Yet for LGBT refugees in the Middle East, the order has a particularly dangerous impact, stranding them in countries where living too openly can get them arrested, beaten, or murdered.
It’s a threat posed not just from Islamic State terrorists, who’ve documented horrific executions of LGBT people in Syria and Iraq, but also from those closest to the LGBT people in question: schoolmates, neighbors, family. Many of the countries in the region criminalize homosexuality and see widespread persecution of their LGBT citizens as a result—even in the more democratic and culturally progressive places like Lebanon.
Thanks to Trump’s executive order, humanitarian and legal workers who assist LGBT refugees now fear for their clients’ lives.
“A lot of people are going to die,” said Neil Grungras, executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), an NGO that helps LGBT asylum seekers. “People are becoming really, really desperate. We’ve had awful cases in the last week with refugees who came in threatening to commit suicide or who had attempted suicide.”
Of course, the executive order will also have far-reaching effects beyond the LGBT community. Refugees who spent years going through the complex U.S. screening process have already been prevented from resettling here, and according to the government, more than 100,000 visas have already been revoked because of the ban.
Grungras worries the U.S.’s new policy will throw the entire resettlement system into chaos, with particularly dire consequences for LGBT refugees. It’s an especially notable slice of suffering, given that part of Trump’s justification for the policy is to bar “those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
“Our clients in Turkey are not allowed to move,” Grungras said. “They’re targeted by neighbors and families, and their only chance was to get out. Now we’re telling them, ‘Sorry, the resettlement system is going down.’ Why would you expect someone like that not to slit his wrists?”