Toronto becomes an “underground railroad” for gay Iranian Refugees

November 19, 2010

Arsham Parsi escaped Iran five years ago and has since assisted 50 gay Iranians to safety in Canada (and consulting on 250 other cases) with the COSTI Immigration services in downtown Toronto. The arrival of lesbian and gay refugees to Canada is difficult. Temporary asylum can be even more damaging than the persecution refugees face in their home countries, said Rachel Tribe, a senior lecturer at the University of East London’s School of Psychology. Separation from family, the loss of socio-economic status and the inability to speak the language can lead to crippling depression.

In 2010 Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney increased the quota of government-assisted refugees in Turkey who are invited to Canada from 475 to 640. The two most prominent groups that need resettlement help are “refugees from Iraq who are fleeing persecution, and gays, lesbians and dissidents who have had to flee Iran,” Kenney said.