U.S. Is Reportedly Denying Visas to Gay Men Being Persecuted In Chechnya

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Reports of gay men being tortured and imprisoned in Chechnya have been appearing for months, with horrifying first person accounts of former prisoners who had fled the regime of ultra-conservative nightmare president, Ramzan Kadyrov. There are reportedly many more seeking asylum from persecution—but they won’t find it in the U.S.

A Russia LGBT Network spokesperson explained to BuzzFeed News that there are about 40 Chechens hiding in different areas of Russia, trying to secure visas so they can flee the country. Some have left without the safety net of a visa, judging it too dangerous to remain in the country for the time its been taking to go through the proper channels:

The Russia LGBT Network spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that “negotiations have been difficult” with representatives of countries that could provide safe refuge for survivors of the violence. She would not name the countries the organization was still trying to secure visas from because this could put any Chechens whose applications ultimately succeeded in danger, but she said in an email to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that “we were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.”

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A spokesperson for the State Department told BuzzFeed that the U.S. “continues to be concerned” about the allegations from Chechnya, calling reports that at least 100 gay men have been detained and tortured “credible.” They neither confirmed nor denied whether or not visas will be issued for any of these men, saying, “As visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we are unable to discuss individual cases.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in mid-April that the reports of this abuse “cannot be ignored” in a statement that was lauded for taking a stand against the alleged abuses of President Kadyrov. Those words have not manifested into needed action, perhaps because Vladimir Putin conducted an investigation and concluded that no violations against LGBT people in Chechnya were taking place.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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DISCUSSION

thenoblerenard
The Noble Renard

I’m just going to post my comment verbatim from the Fusion post on this yesterday. The tl;dr version is that under our immigration laws you can’t simply “issue a visa” to someone fleeing harm, which sucks for the Chechens and makes everything more difficult.

This is one of those situations where the immigration laws are asinine and it’s likely that the State Department (the agency which issues visas) has its hands tied.

If you are fleeing persecution in your home country, the USA has a process by which you can get asylum; if you are outside the US, you can apply for refugee status, which is a process that takes at minimum two years and involves multiple interviews and security checks. Or, alternatively, if you manage to make it to the US in any way, you can apply for asylum status once you have arrived within the United States or at a land border.

Now, combine this with the fact that a person can’t just “get a visa” to come to the United States. They have to get a specific visa and must fit within the parameters for the visa that the law includes. When it comes to tourist visas (B-2 visas), the most common “non-immigrant” visa, this means that you must prove that your intent is not to reside in the United States long-term.

Unfortunately, what that means from a practical perspective is that if you’re fleeing persecution, you can’t tell anyone at the embassy that you are fleeing persecution, because then you’d have to seek refugee status and you’ve admitted that your intent is to come to live in the USA. Which means your visa will be denied.

What the US could do would be to grant these people what’s known as “humanitarian parole.” This is a far more complicated process than simply getting a visitor visa, and is not done at a consulate overseas; the application has to be filed in the USA which means you have to have a lawyer or someone helping you here in the US. And unfortunately, Trump has just cracked down on humanitarian parole, so it’s unlikely that it would be granted.

What the Chechens could do, if they had money, is do is what a lot of other asylum-seekers are doing these days; get a visitor visa to Mexico, fly in, then go to the US border and present yourself and ask for asylum. Or attempt to get asylum in another country you could win asylum in.

I can also add to this post that the State Department is right; the law does totally forbid them from discussing anything: “8 U.S.C. § 1202 (f): The records of the Department of State and of diplomatic and consular offices of the United States pertaining to the issuance or refusal of visas or permits to enter the United States shall be considered confidential...” As a result, you can’t even FOIA visa records. It’s a real nuisance.