A Cape Town-based community organisation, PASSOP (People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty), has launched a ‘gay refugee programme’ aimed at supporting “sexual refugees” in South Africa.

The move come amid fears of a resurgence in xenophobic violence and discrimination against people from other, primarily African, nations living in the country.

“It is high time that the plight of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) refugees and asylum-seekers is highlighted and supported,” said PASSOP.

“Homophobia is a serious issue all across Africa. In many countries, LGBT people face constant harassment and harsh punishments, ranging from fines and imprisonments to death, solely for expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It said that this has led to an influx of sexual refugees fleeing to South Africa. But, claims PASSOP, while South Africa does grant refugee status on the basis of sexual orientation, the asylum application process is fraught with problems and many LGBT people are being turned away unjustly.

PASSOP added that those who are granted status often still face discrimination and harassment in their new communities in South Africa.

“When xenophobia is compounded with homophobia, it leaves many gay and transgender immigrants in conditions not unlike those in the countries they fled in the first place.”

The programme will advocate for the rights of LGBT asylum-seekers and refugees, assist with paralegal advice and aims to empower this group by building a support network.

The programme will also monitor the South African government’s performance in the asylum-seeker and refugee determination processes to ensure that it is true to its commitment to LGBT refugees.

According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), gay Africans face imprisonment or corporal punishment in 36 countries and the death penalty in two countries and parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

For more information on the programme contact

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