In my role as Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, I am confronted every day with the knowledge that my LGBTQ+ siblings are criminalised and persecuted in 71 jurisdictions around the world – 11 of which impose the death penalty for homosexual activity. In many more countries, cultural attitudes mean that LGBTQ+ people face persecution for their gender expression and for who they love. Discrimination, threats, and violence faced by LGBTQ+ people around the world mean that many are forced to uproot their lives to try and find safety. More than a thousand LGBTQ+ people every year come to the UK in the hope of finding safety.
During the last ten years, Micro Rainbow has supported over 6,500 of these LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers. Its holistic approach helps to rebuild the self-esteem and confidence of LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers, give them safe housing and employability support. The UK’s ever more byzantine asylum system and hostile environment policy means that asylum seekers can wait many months, or even years for the outcome of a claim. Micro Rainbow steps into this gap with a Social Inclusion programme that helps counter the loneliness, isolation, and helplessness that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers often face during the wait.
Most asylum seekers in the UK cannot work – but 94% of them want to. This is the same for the LGBTQ+ asylum seekers that Micro Rainbow works with. While waiting for their claims to be processed, the Moving On programme provides one-to-one support and workshops for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers preparing to enter the UK’s jobs market. This might be help with organising CVs, interview practise and facilitating mentorship opportunities.
Last but not least, Micro Rainbow’s Housing programme is a key element of the support it offers. Micro Rainbow’s 18 safe-houses provide secure and safe housing for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees, all of whom have fled violence, discrimination, and persecution in their home countries. Many asylum seekers could face the same threats and discrimination in the Home Office accommodation they are housed in when they reach the UK – Micro Rainbow’s pioneering safehouse programme addresses this issue.
Micro Rainbow’s mission is close to my heart. I have a keen understanding of the ways colonial era laws in the Commonwealth continue to exert a toll on LGBTQ+ people in these countries. Over the years, I have also seen the tremendous impact an organisation like Micro Rainbow can have on the lives of those in need of a welcoming embrace which is one of the reasons I co-founded UK Black Pride: to create a home and a community in the UK for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean heritage lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people – including our asylum-seeking siblings.
I was excited to be asked to be Micro Rainbow’s very first patron. I truly believe that any talk or LGBTQ+ equality or liberation is moot if refugees and asylum seekers are excluded. I want to use my platform so that the voices of the asylum seekers struggling in this crisis are heard. The cost-of-living crisis is affecting both Micro Rainbow and its beneficiaries.
Asylum seekers in the UK live on just £40.85 a week, and this must cover all food and essentials. We all know that inflation and the cost of living is spiralling in the UK. It is getting harder and harder for Micro Rainbow housing residents like Sam, who is an asylum seeker from the Caribbean, to budget when prices increase every week: “When it comes to the basic essential such as food and toiletries, I have to be very mindful of what I spend as prices have risen dramatically, especially meat, oil, and rice. Persons like myself who are already living in hardship will struggle with the crisis even more.”
Barak from Ethiopia and Maria from El Salvador also live in Micro Rainbow housing. The latter says: “As an asylum seeker, I find it challenging to survive on £40.85 a week, the cost of food is increasing and apart from groceries, I need to buy other basic items.”
For Barak, the situation is even more dire: “The cost-of-living crisis is affecting me a lot. I am skipping meals to survive for the week. Living on 40 pounds is so difficult.”
One bright spark of light in the darkness is that Maria, Barak and Sam live in Micro Rainbow’s safehouses. As Sam and Barak explain: “I am grateful that I am in a Micro Rainbow safe house. Especially now that winter has begun and there’s an energy crisis, I know the heating will remain on throughout the winter months. I am so thankful as I live in Micro Rainbow [housing]: the heating is always working and on at the appropriate time and if I feel cold, I can put it on anytime.”
Micro Rainbow is affected by the cost-of-living crisis because it covers the bills and expenses for the safe houses that Maria, Sam, and Barak live in. The costs of these bills are set to increase by 78% in 2023, which works out an additional £13,560! Now, more than ever I am committed to help Micro Rainbow sail through the energy and cost-of-living crisis. I want to use my platforms to ensure that as many LGBTQ+ refugees as possible live fulfilling lives and become strong role models in communities across the UK.
Join me. Become an ally today! Becoming an ally is the best way to support LGBTQ+ asylum seekers all year round. You can also send a one-off donation or purchase a gift from Micro Rainbow’s Amazon Wish List. Together, we can make sure that residents like Maria, Sam and Barak are able to stay warm and healthy during the winter and the whole of 2023.
I have spent my life fighting for the liberation of LGBTQ+ people, and one thing it’s taught me over and over is that none of us are free until all of us are free. Micro Rainbow supports the most vulnerable people within our community: LGBTQ+ people who have risked everything to find the freedom to live and love. I am honoured to be their first patron and to use my voice to amplify the cause. Join me in making a commitment to LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees in the UK this Christmas. Support Micro Rainbow.