This SSHRC-funded research compared the responses to Venezuelan LGBTQ+ Refugees in Brazil and Colombia. Conducting extensive fieldwork in refugee shelters, my research is focused on identifying the protection gaps that LGBTQI+ asylum seekers face, especially high-risk groups such as trans Venezuelan asylum seeker sex workers and queer indigenous displaced peoples from Venezuela. These groups are at much higher risk of extreme violence, exploitation and human trafficking and are often overlooked in humanitarian and government responses. A core objective of my research is to empower Venezuelan LGBTQI+ asylum seekers by illuminating their experiences and co-producing policy recommendations with them aimed at humanitarian organizations and governments.
Building off of my previous research in Brazil, I partnered with Colombia’s newly established LGBTQI+ refugee space in Cúcuta supported by UNHCR and Corprodinco, La Casa que Abraza (The House that Hugs), to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences of xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia in Colombia. In Brazil, we worked with UNHCR and UNFPA to connect with Venezuelan LGBTQ+ Refugees in refugee shelters in Boa Vista. Overall, we conducted 100 surveys and 24 semi-structured interviews in Colombia and 54 surveys and 15 semi-structured interviews in Brazil.
As one of the first migration experts to research these high-risk and hard-to-reach groups, my research had a significant policy impact. It was cited by R4V, the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela in their policy plan used by 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and nearly 200 organizations around the world. My research inspired the President of the Early Childhood Front and the Secretary of Women of the Brazilian Parliament to visit the refugee camps and, subsequently, multiple inquiries into the experience of Venezuelan asylum seekers during the pandemic, including women, unaccompanied minors, and LGBTQ+ folks were launched and investigated by the Brazilian Congress. Lastly, my research was shared with the UNHCR, the UNFPA, Brazil’s Coordinator-General for the National Committee of Refugees, the Brazilian military, Canada’s Ambassador to Brazil, and Canada’s Ambassador to France.