A new initiative has been launched helping queer migrants to navigate government systems across Europe without fear of discrimination, amid a political climate of increasing anti-migrant and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.
UK-based nonprofit The Love Tank, alongside MPact Global, kicked off phase one of its Queers Beyond Borders project on Friday (1 September).
The initiative provides online resources where migrants can find information and support on immigration processes, healthcare systems and finding LGBTQ+ friendly communities across Europe.
So far, the project focuses on six cities – Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid and Paris – in its roster of information, but plans to include other notable regions in its next phase.
The Love Tank’s director, Dr Will Nutland, told PinkNews that the organisation will focus on the differences in experiences LGBTQ+ migrants have, and also what they bring to the countries where they take up residence.
“Queers Beyond Borders, right from the outset, didn’t want to come from a deficit model,” Nutland continued. “We didn’t want to focus on that, if you’re a queer migrant, you are more likely to experience X, Y, and Z.
“Instead, what we want to do was to highlight that migrants and queer migrants bring assets and resources and cultures and experiences, food and music, and all of those other beautiful things, into our cities that make our queer culture more vibrant and more brilliant and more enriched.
“So we are really unapologetic about saying that, not least because most of us have people who are incredibly dear to us, and enrich our lives, who were not born in the UK.”
“As we see a rise in anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT movements, Queers Beyond Borders could not be more timely and more needed,” MPact Global community engagement director Alex Garner said in a statement.
“This initiative fosters community and celebrates the humanity and rich contributions of queer migrant communities across Europe.”
While plenty of information is currently present on the intiative’s website – including mental health support information, social groups, legal and housing advice, as well as checklists of “essentials” for each city – the initiative’s members, who are predominantly queer migrants, say more is to come.
Queers Beyond Borders has announced it is set to introduce cities from eastern Europe in its next phases, including places like Warsaw, which Nutland said has become a priority due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We’re acutely aware from our partner organisations we work alongside in Poland that there’s a lot of queer people moving out of Russia and out of Ukraine, and lots of services there are overwhelmed,” Nutland explained.
The hope for Nutland and others is that the project evolves into an “iterative” community where queer migrants can not only find the information they need, but can see the positive impacts of migration.
Anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation is currently rife in UK.
The Conservative government passed its far-reaching Illegal Migration Bill in July, after voting down an amendment designed to protect LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. It means that anyone who enters the UK ‘illegally’ – in a small boat, for example, or the back of a lorry – will be detained and deported.
The legislation has been condemned as “racist” and “cruel” by charities, asylum advocacy groups and activists, and will undoubtedly increase the suffering of vulnerable people seeking safety in Britain.
‘We need to think about where the greatest need is’
Nutland noted that a number of migrants have asked the group to extend its support beyond Europe, asking for information on cities in Canada or North America.
“We have had a conversation about whether it sticks in Europe, but that’s definitely a phase three or phase four plan,” Nutland continued.
“For phase two, we do have a shortlist. We have, with MPact, a development strategy which may end up with us getting or attempting to get funded by individual cities.
“So if a particular city health department, for example, saw this and said, ‘It would be great to have this for Amsterdam,’ then we would prioritise that.
Beyond the priority cities that Nutland noted, he also mentioned others including Dublin, Amsterdam and Zurich are “obvious omissions” that could be considered in the near future.
“We also need to think about where the greatest need is right now and where Queers Beyond Borders can not only provide information to queer migrants moving into places like Warsaw, but also how the network can help and support and offer solidarity for those people who are both queer migrants and working with queer migrnats.”