Photo courtesy: Unsplash/elyssarenae.

Non-profit tech organization AsylumConnect has launched an iOS and Android mobile app catering to the tens of thousands of LGBTQ people seeking asylum each year.

“Our free app instantly connects persecuted LGBTQ people with verified safe services and support,” said Katie Sgarro, AsylumConnect co-founder and president, in a statement.

“With today’s launch, we have improved our platform’s mobile accessibility and user experience at this pivotal moment for LGBTQ and immigrant communities.”

While the mobile app launched this week, AsylumConnect has been available as a web application since 2016.

Since that time, “AsylumConnect has connected over 11,000 unique users to verified LGBTQ-and immigrant-friendly services in the U.S. and has been accessed in over 150 countries,” the organization says.

LGBTQ Refugees

The number of LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers is on the rise even though the number of countries criminalizing same-sex relations has dropped, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Currently, homosexuality is considered illegal in 77 countries.

In approximately one dozen countries, it is punishable by death.

There is limited data on the number of LGBTQ refugees, but research suggests seeking asylum is an arduous process. In June, Qz analyzed refugee data in the UK and found asylum requests granted to LGBTQ refugees to be nearly a third lower than for all applicants in 2017.

Between April 2009 and June 2011, Canadian statistics suggest that 58 per cent of the 561 sexual minority refugee claims received by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada was approved.

Applicants are often forced to “prove” they belong to the LGBTQ community — an activity that, in some countries, relies on dated gender stereotypes, according to University of California, Irvine Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Criminology, Law, and Society Stefan Vogler.

“Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, courts often used gendered stereotypes – the effeminate gay man or the butch lesbian – to determine a person’s sexuality in LGBTQ asylum claims,” Vogler writes

While this has improved “substantially” in the U.S. in recent years, Vogler says challenges remain.

” …not everyone will have a neat, linear story to tell about how they came to a particular gender or sexual identity. Those who do not may find that courts are less likely to find their claims credible.”