Canada’s Immigration Ministry Will Favor LGBT Refugees From Russia

LGBT Russians are allowed to file for asylum status in Canada as a persecuted group.

Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

LGBT Russians seeking refuge from their country’s anti-gay hostility can take some comfort in knowing that Canada, at least, will favor their asylum claims. Chris Alexander, Canada’s immigration minister, said on Monday that claims “related to this particular issue will of course be looked at very seriously by our very generous system.”

The passage of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law just a few months before the country is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics has brought unprecedented attention to the hostility LGBT Russians face on a regular basis. Maxim Zhuravlev, a gay Russian who recently fled to Vancouver, told CBC news, “I feel that I’m protected. I feel that I can be myself. I don’t have be worried about violence.”

Zhuravlev, who has been in Canada for two months, is staying in a homeless shelter while his refugee claim is processed. “It is considered an honor for a Russian to harm or even kill a gay person. They will be honored by society and tell everyone, ‘I killed a gay person.’ Everyone basically will be proud of that.”

As The Globe and Mail reports, somewhere between 140 and 225 Russians attempt to claim asylum in Canada each year, and about half are accepted.

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Saeed Jones is executive editor, culture for BuzzFeed and the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, and is based in New York.
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