With increasing reports of atrocities being committed against suspected homosexuals in Chechnya, a Canadian human-rights organization is mobilizing emergency efforts to help get those at risk out of the region.
Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad works to provide legal assistance, visas, transportation and other necessities to LGBT people in jeopardy, and is making Chechnya priority number one: “Since we first received initial reports of gay concentration camps being established in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad immediately re-classified Eastern Europe as a priority region,” says executive director Kimahli Powell. “This means we’re expanding our on-the-ground contacts as well as increasing our capacity to identify and assess new or alternative safe routes out of Chechnya.”
Rainbow Railroad is working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, an NGO that’s been working to raise awareness about the crisis. The network will help identify those who need to be evacuated, and Rainbow Railroad will provide direct travel assistance. It’s also calling on the Canadian government to provide emergency visas.
“The situation in Chechnya is part of a global pattern of ongoing state-enabled or state-sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people,” Powell says, citing Indonesia, Bangladesh and The Gambia as three other perpetrators. “This is why the number of people who reach out to us each year is growing.”
Since its founding in 2006, Rainbow Railroad has helped more than 300 LGBT people reach safety, but the need always outweighs their resources—in 2016 alone the group received 600 requests for assistance. The cost of a single case can run into the thousands, as legal fees, travel expenses, visas and more pile up.
You can make a donation to their efforts on the Rainbow Railroad website.