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Acknowledging A Milestone

Today marks a year since the withdrawal of the United States Armed forces from Afghanistan. A milestone that will remain memorable in history for various reasons. For many of us, it will be remembered as yet another day when LGBTQI people were faced with sudden life or death circumstances. Afghanistan was never a welcoming country for LGBTQI people. However, since the return of the Taliban, living in Afghanistan as a queer person has become a potential death sentence. 

At Micro Rainbow we feel privileged to have supported more than 80 LGBTQI people from Afghanistan (and their family members). They have all arrived in the UK over the last 12 months. This was possible thanks to the painstaking work of our partners including Stonewall. Once in the UK, Micro Rainbow is able to provide them with specialist one-to-one case work and integration support.

The Ongoing Dangers in Afghanistan

The Afghan story doesn’t end there. There are still thousands of queer people living in Afghanistan whose lives are in danger. This is what a queer Afghan who still lives in the country emailed us:

“I’m very depressed and helpless. Because I am a LGBTQ and I live in the centre of the war, Afghanistan, I lead a hard life. I have been beaten many times by the Taliban and I am a prisoner at home and I cannot leave the house and continue my studies because I am threatened. They would kill me… everyone knows that I am LGBTQ… my relatives and my neighbours give information about me to Taliban… they recognized me, they have beaten me… I also filled the form of UK ACRS scheme for Afghan people and I have reference number but I didn’t hear anything from UK government. I am really in danger please help me as soon as possible, please save my life.”

And a second one wrote:

“The Taliban took over Afghanistan that’s why I fear living in this country… life will be dangerous, I might get kill or get harmed by this unofficial governance. Anything bad can happen to me and the people who are living around me… I am changing my locations everyday. If people found out [that I am LGBT], the result would be death.”

These are just two example of the dozens of messages that Micro Rainbow receives every month from queer people from Afghanistan and around the world.  

The enormity of the task ahead of us often leaves us feeling helpless. How can we help these LGBTQI people survive? It’s mind-blowing. We need to balance our limited resources with the huge demand for our services.  

A year since the fall of Kabul we cannot and will not forget queer people from Afghanistan. We need the UK Government as well as other Governments around the world to raise their game: they need to implement resettlement schemes that are accessible to LGBTQI people and be sensitive to their identities and their families.

The Biggest Challenges Lie Ahead

Similarly, we cannot ignore our siblings in other countries. As a UK organisation, we are terrified about the potential impact of the new Nationality and Borders bill on our beneficiaries.  

It saddens and angers us that the focus of this new legislation seems to be on how people come to the UK, not “why”, and again, the focus is on “when” they claim asylum and not “why”. In trying to score political points, I fear we have forgotten our humanity and our compassion. This new legislation will seriously harm LGBTQI people seeking safety in the UK.

We need to be honest with ourselves. Whether it is Afghanistan, Russia or the UK hostile environment, we are facing some of the biggest challenges of the last decade. There will be times when we will not be able to help everyone who contacts us. Thousands of queer people will continue to live in LGBTQIphobic countries like Afghanistan for a long time and many are compelled to hide who they really are to stay alive. As a community we will experience trauma and hopefully healing too.

There Is Hope

In the first eight months of 2022, we have supported 761 LGBTQI people fleeing persecution with safe housing, employability support, advocacy, pastoral care and much more. They come from one of the 69 jurisdictions in the world where being yourself is illegal (Iran, Uganda, Bangladesh etc.), or fleeing the conflict in Ukraine or countries like Brazil, where there is a murder of an LGBTQI person almost every day.

We work with partners in the UK, and globally, to fight the hostile environment. Our partners are as committed as we are in supporting queer people seeking sanctuary. We are supported by hundreds of allies who show their solidarity in many ways including by opening their homes to LGBTQI Ukrainians or by supporting us financially. We plan to open more safe houses across the UK and to fully meet the demand for our work in the UK so that every queer refugee will have a home to come to.  

The challenge ahead of us might be overwhelming, but Micro Rainbow is not backing down. We are ready to do everything we can in ensuring that love and unity prevail over fear and divisions. We need our elected politicians to do the same, to move away from scapegoating and to see the thirst for solidarity and kindness that we see within communities across the UK and which the Homes for Ukraine scheme has shown us all.   

At Micro Rainbow, so long as there is hope, we will keep coming to work. 

If you are an LGBTQI refugee from Afghanistan in the UK and in need of support you can contact Micro Rainbow’s helpline

Sebastian Rocca is the Founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow. Founded in 2012 Micro Rainbow is the leading not for profit organisation in the UK supporting the integration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people who flee persecution and reach the UK in search of safety. Micro Rainbow’s holistic approach to integration is based on three pillars: safe housing, social inclusion and employability support. These programmes ensure that LGBTQI refugees are not only safe but also able to live fulfilling, independent lives. Micro Rainbow has won a number of awards for innovation and as a top social enterprise and is recognised for creating the first ever national safe housing scheme for LGBTQI people fleeing persecution, with a current capacity of over 22,000 bed-nights a year. Find out more at:

Over the last 10 years Micro Rainbow supported over 6,000 LGBTQI people fleeing persecution. You can join their efforts by becoming an ally or by making a donation today.

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