Canada has discreetly granted asylum to 31 gay men from Chechnya working with the NGO Rainbow Railroad, a clandestine program unique in the world.
The evacuations, spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Toronto-based NGO said in a Facebook message on Friday that his organization had been able to help 31 gay men leave Russia and be granted asylum in Canada.
The program has been a closely held secret within the government for months. Non-governmental organizations that were involved have also kept silent, for fear that any leaks could imperil the people they were trying to help.
“Canada accepted a large number of people who are in great danger, and that is wonderful,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russian program director for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization, in a telephone interview. “The Canadian government deserves much praise for showing such openness and goodwill to provide sanctuary for these people. They did the right thing.”
In April, Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government strongly condemned persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya.
Canada is not the only country to accept gay refugees from Chechnya and other countries in the region. France has accepted at least one person, as has Germany, and two are in Lithuania. An undetermined number of individuals have traveled to European Union countries on tourist visas, and then applied for refugee status.
At this point in time the United States has done nothing.