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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 CONTACT: Kristofer Eisenla, LUNA+EISENLA media | 202-670-5747 (mobile)

REFUGEE RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE UNION Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration Reaction to the State of the Union Address United States Must Fulfill President’s Promise to Create Safety for World’s Most Vulnerable Refugees

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – As President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union Address, the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) – an international non-profit organization devoted to advocating on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – released the following statement calling on the United States government to fulfill the President’s promise to create safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) endangered around the world. Neil Grungras, Executive Director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), released the following statement today:

“In December 2011, the President published a trailblazing memorandum vowing to apply U.S. power to create safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people oppressed and endangered around the world. Among the key means: securing LGBT refugees’ access to the U.S. Refugee System. This venerable goal is eluding us.

“As the President delivers his last State of the Union address, the perils facing LGBT people in many countries around the world have never been so dire. Never have so many LGBT people been so viciously targeted by state and non-state actors in so many countries. Never before have leaders outside the U.S. used LGBT issues for political gain with such ease. And far from gaining access to refugee systems, the few LGBT people who escape the carnage in their countries are unable to access the fortress of international refugee protection or the U.S. Refugee Program.

“Several months ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power shocked the world when she revealed that of the 70,000 refugees the U.S. took in during 2014, fewer than 100 were LGBT. The numbers for 2015 will not be better. Without a solution, LGBT people will continue to be executed in places like Syria, where bloodthirsty ISIS and the masses alike execute accused gays in the name of piety.

“With so much good will and commitment on the President’s part, something is terribly wrong. Without a firm understanding of how and why LGBT refugees access – and are locked out of – refugee systems, the State Department, which runs our country’s refugee program, has been faltering to improve the dismal picture with methods which have been tried and have failed. But there is a way. The U.S. certainly canadmit vastly more LGBT refugees.

“LGBT refugees face insurmountable barriers accessing protection, as self-disclosure puts them in mortal danger. Yet receiving protection requires revealing their identity. To begin creating access routes, the State Department must work much more closely with LGBT organizations already in the field. To create a sliver of trust and safety in such treacherous territory, refugee professionals must not only have extraordinary expertise and sensitivity; They must themselves be openly LGBT.

“We commend the President for boldly increasing the Syrian refugee quote by 10,000 slots. We ask that the Administration go a step further to fulfill the wise objectives set out by the President in 2011. Help save LGBT refugees clinging on to hope in the most hopeless of conditions. Their lives and our collective morality implore us to act now.”

ORAM has directly trained over 2,000 refugee professionals working in United Nations, government and community-based agencies in 14 countries, who have together assisted over a million refugees. Thousands of refugee and asylum workers around the world utilize ORAMs tools and resources, which have benefited 5 million people in the past five years.

Grungras penned an exclusive opinion editorial today for the Advocate titled, “Stop Neglecting the True State of LGBT Refugees.“ In the piece, Grungras states, “Employing and protecting openly LGBT staff and partnering closely with openly LGBT groups is the key to creating system access for LGBT refugees.”

About ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration ORAM is an international non-profit organization devoted to capacity-building and advocacy on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

ORAM enables the international community to protect exceptionally vulnerable refugees through capacity-building, cutting-edge research, innovative resources and tools. ORAM also provides refugees with legal assistance and the information they critically need to access refugee protection systems.

Rooted in justice and driven by its commitment to uphold the integrity of the international refugee system, ORAM advocates for the vulnerable, fosters strong connections with refugee professionals, and responds to the most pressing issues within the world’s ever-evolving refugee landscape.

You can read more about ORAM’s work by visiting the organization’s website, and social media via Facebook and Twitter.

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