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  • Writer's pictureKyle Kvamme

New research identifies LGBTIQ refugees’ greatest needs in Mexico City

Pictured: Residents at El Jardin de las Mariposas, an LGBTIQ shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

ORAM has spent the last two months identifying LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers in Mexico City and understanding their greatest needs.

This research is expanding ORAM’s current work in Mexico. In late 2019, ORAM began its work in Mexico in Tijuana at El Jardin de las Mariposas, an LGBTIQ shelter. At El Jardin, ORAM has helped LGBTIQ refugees meet their basic needs, such as shelter, and has provided residents with skills trainings and other workshops. Over the last year in Mexico City, ORAM provided English language classes and legal workshops for queer refugees and facilitated workshops on mental health.

Better understanding the needs of LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico City is crucial for ORAM’s programs in Mexico. Mexico City has been an attractive destination for LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers as it is known to be an LGBTIQ-friendly city and is considered to be a “sanctuary city” for the “rights of all people who are in the city, regardless of their migratory situation.”

While there are many organizations working directly with the LGBTIQ refugee community in communities along the U.S/Mexico border, there are few in Mexico City. “We needed [the research] to get a clearer idea for the needs of the community,” Anja Limon, ORAM’s Senior Program Manager, shared on the importance of this research.

To reach the LGBTIQ refugee community in Mexico City, Rene Tec-Lopez, the consultant conducting this research on behalf of ORAM, created a flyer and distributed it through social media channels, civil society organizations, LGBTIQ organizations, and religious organizations. Rene identified individuals who were interested in sharing their experiences as queer refugees and their greatest needs and obstacles. The people interviewed came from Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Russia, with several from Honduras.

From the interviews with LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico City, Rene identified 12 needs that came through most of the interviews. Those identified were stable work, housing, health services, attention for drug and alcohol addiction, food security, information for applying for asylum, transportation support, educational training, follow-up from organizations, help formally initiating their asylum application process, psychological care, and learning trades and Spanish for better job opportunities.

Out of the 12 needs identified through the research, the most common were a need for housing and stable employment in Mexico City. The research also found that a majority of the LGBTIQ refugees interviewed intend to stay in Mexico City. These findings will help guide and inform ORAM’s work in Mexico City in the coming year.

ORAM’s staff are encouraged to see the results of this research. “[The findings] fit into what we generally do and can provide as an organization…I’m glad we took the time to do this,” Anja shared on identifying the greatest needs of the LGBTIQ refugee community in Mexico.

ORAM wants to thank the LGBTIQ refugees who bravely shared their experiences with us. Many have been through incredibly challenging and traumatizing experiences, oftentimes facing extreme abuse. We understand how challenging it can be to recount painful memories from the past, and we are grateful for these individuals sharing their lived experiences to help better the lives of other LGBTIQ refugees.

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