France and Germany have started issuing special visas to LGBTQ people fleeing Chechnya, the semi-autonomous Russian region where queer people have endured a six months long campaign of kidnapping, detention, torture and extrajudicial murder. They are the second and third countries to offer refuge for escaped Chechens — Lithuania was the first and the United States has reportedly refused to issue such visas.
Germany issued the visas on “urgent humanitarian grounds” for people who demonstrate that they’re in serious danger. The Foreign Ministry said that the first queer Chechen refugee arrived on Tuesday and four other applications are currently being reviewed.
France accepted its first Chechen refugee on Monday. Joël Deumier, president of the French gay rights organization SOS Homophobie, said more refugees may arrive in the following days.
The Russian LGBT Network, a local queer aid organization, has been helping evacuate LGBTQ people from Chechnya but say that its difficult as many queer Chechens worry that offers of escape are actually a police trap. Many refugees are still awaiting visas while hiding in other parts of Russia. These people’s families are subject to violence for disappearing.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether U.S. President Donald Trump is even aware of the violent anti-LGBTQ purge happening in the southwest region of Russia. He and other world leaders have been woefully silent or inactive despite the international Human Rights Watch organization urging world governments to pressure Russian to unequivocally denounce and stop the purge.
After a brief investigation, Russia concluded that there are “no victims, threats or violence” happening in Chechnya, ignoring multiple refugee accounts reported by various human rights organizations. Chechnya has been obstructing investigations into the violence by literally burying evidence and asking people not to cooperate with investigators.
The U.S. State Department declined to explain its stance on issuing visas for Chechen refugees, stating, “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law.”
(Featured image by FilippoBacci via iStock Photography)