UN praises work of LGBT group


A support organisation for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has been commended by the United Nations as a global model for best practise, the Head of Office with the UN High Commission for Refugees Ireland has said.

Speaking at announcement today of a training programme for people working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, Sophie Magennis said Ireland was "lucky to have an organisation like BeLonG To", which was described by another speaker as "innovative and indispensable".

BeLonG To was founded in 2003 and has since then, as part of its work supported asylum seeking LGBT people, whom Ms Magennis said were "particularly vulnerable".

The training project, which runs from this month until the autumn, will be free of charge and will be full- or half-day programmes and are aimed at service providers working with young LGBT asylum seekers.

It will cover such topics as awareness of LGBT issues, LGBT sensitive terminology and challenges faced by LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.

Michael Barron, Chief Executive of BeLonG To, said this group were a "minority within a minority" that faced "grave isolation".

Among the issues they faced was being dispersed around the State to direct provisions centres where there may be no supports for gay people.

They also faced the challenge , when dealing with some service providers, of an assumption they would be safe to return to their country of origin where homosexuality may be punishable by death, if they were "discreet" about their sexual identity.

Ms Magennis said the UNHCR's position on this was clear. "Just as a claim based on political opinion or nationality would not be dismissed on the ground that the applicant could avoid anticipated harm by concealing their beliefs or identity, applications based in sexual orientation should not be rejected merely on such grounds.

"We do not tell claimants they have a right to practise their religion so long as they hide it. A hidden right is not a right."

The course is being funded by Pobail and the HSE. Details available from www.belongto.org.