Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Video: international LGBT asylum advocate speaks to us

By Paul Canning

On a flying visit to London Neil Grungras, the founder and Executive Director of Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), took time to speak to LGBT Asylum News.

Grungras is a former executive of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and a longtime refugee advocate. In his conversation with us he talks about ORAM's work, his own motivations and explains how ORAM is launching a historic global survey of mainstream refugee organisations about prevailing attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender migrants.

The survey has roots in a June report by ORAM and the human rights group Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Turkey about mistreatment of gay refugees in that country. Singling out the United Nations Commission on Human Rights — as well as the Turkish government — for pervasive prejudice, the report concluded that the system was punishing people it was supposed to protect.

Grungras is the son of a Polish-born mother who survived Auschwitz, and a German-born father who survived Polish work camps, he sees “striking parallels” between the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust and the persecution of gay and transgender people in many countries in the world today.

When Grungras told his mother that he was leaving HIAS to launch an advocacy organization for LGBT refugees, “her response was, ‘Oh my God, it’s just like the Jews.'"

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