Rainbow Railroad groups say there are more LGBT Chechens still in safe houses waiting to leave.
A Toronto-based charity said Friday it has helped 35 LGBT individuals escape from Chechnya, 31 of whom have now arrived in Canada.
“The situation in Chechnya is part of a global pattern of ongoing state-enabled or state-sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people,” Rainbow Railroad executive director Kimahli Powell said in a statement.
In April, allegations of killings, torture and illegal detentions of LGBT individuals in the Russian republic prompted condemnation from human rights groups and the Canadian government, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland calling the reports of violence and discrimination “reprehensible.”
Powell said he went to Russia in May to meet with LGBT people seeking asylum and established a partnership with the Canadian government.
Powell said his organization — which he says has helped 140 LGBT people escape places of persecution so far this year — teamed up with the Russian LGBT Network, who he says established safe houses and communication channels for people in Chechnya wanting to flee. He said Rainbow Railroad handled the evacuations.
“We were able to quickly intervene and receive a response from the Canadian government because we are one of the few — if only — major international organizations focused on moving LGBTQ people out of immediate danger to safety,” he said in the statement.
Powell said more Chechens are still in safe houses waiting to leave Russia, and that his organization is also shifting focus to help the refugees resettle.
Founded in 2006, Rainbow Railroad says on its website that its mission is to “seek safe haven from state-enabled violence, murder or persecution” of LGBT people.
Read the full statement here:
In response to the confirmed reports of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths targeting over 200 gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad immediately went to action to assist those in danger. Rainbow Railroad has been working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, a non-governmental organization currently leading the campaign to rescue those facing danger in Chechnya.
As of July 2017, 37 individuals have escaped into safe houses in Russia, and would like to leave the country. Rainbow Railroad is providing direct travel assistance and has already negotiated safe travel for 35 individuals with a commitment to supporting everyone of them.
This includes asking the Canadian government to provide direct assistance to LGBTQ people who need our help in Chechnya and other countries by way of emergency visas. We are currently in active communication with the government. Rainbow Railroad is the only organization in the world providing this direct assistance, as it has the unique capacity to respond to this and other similar crises that may occur.