To learn more about humanitarians Michelle Kraus and Joe Rodriguez and their work with Afghan refugees, read this story.
There are an estimated 10,000 LGBTQ+ Afghans who need immediate evacuation, said Joe Rodriguez, co-founder of Americans for Afghans, a humanitarian start-up he runs along with Palo Alto human relations commissioner Michelle Kraus.
There is hope to get more of them to other countries. On Sept. 18, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened the first ministerial meeting of the Resettlement Diplomacy Network, a new multilateral initiative launched by the U.S. on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The network seeks to strengthen and expand global refugee resettlement among nations that currently participate and to add additional members.
The ministerial representatives included Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Commissioner for Home Affairs of the European Commission. New Zealand also sent a representative offering a commitment to help.
"Over the last decade, the number of people forced to flee their homes has increased each year. Today, over 110 million people are displaced worldwide – more than at any other time in human history. More than two million of them need resettlement – far outstripping the capacity of the existing global infrastructure," the ministers of the nations said in a joint statement.
The coordinated effort would help nations plan strategically for how to address and collaborate on the refugee situation and reduce bottlenecks to resettlement.
The network also noted its efforts to address the needs of Afghans fleeing persecution by the Taliban. The nations also said they intend to collaborate to expand solutions for LGBTQ+ individuals fleeing persecution.
Prior to the announcement by the Resettlement Diplomacy Network, Canada and Germany have thus far been the most receptive and have specifically carved out a niche for accepting LGBTQ+ individuals in their rescue plans. Canada has committed to take in 40,000 Afghan refugees overall through several programs, according to a government website. Out of 36,690 refugees Canada has taken in since 2021, 900 or 2% are LGBTQ+ Afghans.
Canada also provides government-assisted resettlement programs. They provide LGBTQ+ refugees with 12 months of income and settlement support so they'll have time to work through asylum applications and paths to citizenship.
Germany announced an admissions program for Afghans that will take in 1,000 Afghan refugees a month, with 100 a month or 10% being LGBTQ+. Germany also offers two years of comprehensive financial and services support, which includes permanent residency, according to its immigration website.
Jorg Hutter, managing director of Rainbow Afghanistan and a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Association of Germany, worked with other organizations to raise his government's awareness of the plight of LGBTQ+ Afghans. He also partners with Kraus and Rodriguez. In a September statement, he noted the profound need for the work of Americans for Afghans and other network partnerships.
"The world is currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis of LGBTQI people since World War 2. The Taliban has begun a horrific mass murder of Afghan LGBTQI people. Because of this, a global coalition has formed of many bright minds with long experience in human rights work to carry out the largest mass evacuation of threatened LGBTQI people to date since World War 2," he said.
This action should serve as a model for dealing with further humanitarian persecution catastrophes in the offing in other countries, such as in Uganda, he said.
The U.S. has taken in more than 90,000 Afghans since the Taliban returned to power, but most of its programs, such as the P-2 program, focus on people who aided the U.S. military or government while the U.S. was in Afghanistan. The majority of other programs are geared to help contractors, allies and others who worked there with the U.S.
One program focuses on those who were persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group and meet other eligibility requirements, including security vetting and medical clearances, according to the U.S. Department of State. The number of LGBTQ people who have been admitted isn't clear and there isn't a set-aside percentage for LGBTQ refugees.
Kraus hopes that will change.
In January 2023, the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Welcome Corps, a private-sponsorship program for refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The Department of State introduced the Welcome Corps on Campus in July 2023 to allow colleges and universities to sponsor refugee students. Bay Area educational institutions that have joined the program include Foothill College, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, Diablo Valley College, Contra Costa College, Contra Costa Community College District and Dominican University.
Later this year, Welcome Corps will enter Phase 2 by allowing private sponsors to identify a specific refugee individual or refugee family whom they want to sponsor – a process known as "naming," which could help to bring in more sponsored LGBTQ+ refugees.
Many people still need to apply for asylum, however. In northern California, Jewish Family and Children's Services, which works with HIAS, a 130-year-old refugee-assistance international organization, has also brought in Afghan refugees. Jewish organizations in the East Bay have got families out too – at least 1,000 people – Kraus said. Those people are on one-year temporary visas and now need to apply for asylum.