MAINZ, Germany – Support groups in Germany are planning special shelters for gay refugees and migrants after incidents of abuse and violence amid the country’s record-setting immigration.
The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) says several incidents of discrimination and physical assaults against gay refugees have been reported in the past year.
“Berlin officials identified 95 cases in the German capital alone between August and December 2015, mainly in refugee homes,” Markus Ulrich from the LSVD told NBC News.
It comes as Germany grapples with an unabated refugee influx, with several thousand migrants arriving every day. Many have fled countries such as Iraq and Syria where ISIS militants are targeting or killing homosexuals.
Now LGBT communities in Berlin, Nuremberg and other major cities are now planning to set up special shelters exclusively for gay and lesbian refugees.
“We have been alerted to a growing number of insults and violent acts against queer refugees, including cases of rape,” Marcel de Groot, manager of Berlin’s gay counselling centre, Schwulenberatung, told NBC News.
The support organization estimates that “between 5 and 10 percent of the 70,000 refugees that arrived in Berlin last year were gay, lesbian or transsexual,” he added.
Schwulenberatung has had to find emergency accommodation for up to 70 people, mostly gay men, in private Berlin homes because “they had strong fears in the refugee shelters or became victims of attacks,” de Groot said.
Social workers and volunteers believe that the estimated number of unreported cases could be even higher. “Many homosexual refugees do not trust police,” said de Groot, because authorities in their home counties “often persecute them for their sexual orientation.”
“We need to act quickly” to support homosexuals among the large group of refugees, Ulrich added.
Gay-rights organizations are also hoping to set up a nationwide support network for refugees in Germany. Even before identifying exclusive shelters for LGBT migrants, organizations launched weekly meetings for homosexual and transsexual refugees and set up websites such as “Queer Refugees Welcome," which provides information about the asylum process in languages including English, Arabic, Dari and Farsi.
Meanwhile, the Austrian Interior Ministry produced a “refugee guide” aimed at providing some basic guidelines and regulations for arriving refugees, including a cartoon explaining that “same-sex partnerships are allowed in Austria. Women may live together with women and men with men.”