Why Ireland has become home to LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

by | Dec 27, 2023 | MIGRATION & CONFLICT

A photo of three hands raised in fists on. The background is a rainbow flag.

Image: Prathan Chorruangsak

A land of picturesque beauty and a country of an illustrious history, the Republic of Ireland has made significant headway in the recognition and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights over the last decade. This development has helped Ireland become a haven for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. Ireland’s journey from a socially conservative nation to an emerging home for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers is a testament to the power of societal transformation. From the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993 to becoming the first nation to enact a national law allowing same-sex marriages in May 2015, Ireland heralds the initialisation of change. 


Partly ascribable to the firmly held opposing influence of the Catholic Church, the paradigm shift of Irish society from conservative-leaning to rainbow-coloured liberal didn’t happen in a day. According to the ILGA map of sexual orientation from 2016, over seventy countries criminalised same-sex sexual activities, and thirteen countries imposed death penalties. These numbers have reduced to fifty-seven and eleven, respectively in 2019. In such a world, for those who fled their homes, Ireland has been one destination.


“Fleeing Homophobia, Asylum Claims Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Europe,” published in 2011, estimates that 10,000 or more people in Europe file asylum claims each year due to their sexual orientation. Historically, only Belgium and Norway have collected statistics on the number of people applying for asylum in Europe based on their sexual orientation. Despite having no accuracy on the number of LGBTQ individuals requesting refuge in Ireland, anecdotal data suggests that a significant fraction of the 2,443 individuals who requested asylum here between the years 2006 and 2015 identify as LGBTQ+.


“Even though I was not legally prosecuted for being a homosexual in my home country, but I was always socially charged at every stage of my life for being who I am. My family and friends made me feel that my sexuality is sinful,” said James (pseudonym used) in a conversation.

“I have been living happily in Ireland with my husband since 2017 and it has never occurred in the past six years that I had to hide myself in the binary crowd. We’re planning on adopting a baby, too.”

The expression of relief on James’s face for being able to find a home for himself and his husband was the sign of a gift from Irish society to not just James but also to many others like him. However, the process of creating a peaceful space for the LQBTQ+ immigrants in Ireland has not been free of challenge. Research published in 2018 by National LGBT Federation (NXF), “Far from Home: Life as an LGBT Migrant in Ireland,” states that 54% of the survey respondents felt exclusion and 40% experienced homophobic abuse, a reminder that a world of acceptance is still a long way away.


However, many groups are working to make a more accepting society a reality. LGBT Ireland is a national organisation which has been enormously contributing towards the betterment of the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland with a significant impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ immigrants, travellers, refugees and asylum seekers. ‘Is Rainbow Muid – We Are Rainbow’ is an in-person peer and social group supported by LGBT Ireland. The Irish Refugee Council identifies challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the process of seeking international protection, both during the decision-making process and reception of the facilities. Some of these challenges include:

  • Lack of early recognition of the unique needs of LGBT applicants, as well as delayed access to specialised medical guidance, counselling services, social assistance, and legal counsel attentive to their claims;

  • Evaluation of the legitimacy of cases for asylum based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

  • Confinement to Direct Provision accommodation with scant access to essential services and social supports;

  • Experiences with bullying and sexual harassment directed towards LGBT people living in ‘Direct Provision accommodation’.

To overcome these challenges, the Irish Refugee Council advocates for the well-being of LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum through efforts such as their ‘Identity Peer Support Group’.


The efforts of great individuals of the Irish nation and organisations like the Irish Refugee Council, LGBT Ireland, Rainbow Railroad Ireland, Outhouse, Irish Council for Civil Liberties and many more have brought tremendous positive changes in making Ireland a home for the LGBTQ+ immigrants and asylum seekers. Like someone anonymously said, “an open mind, a good heart and an empathetic soul, is all it takes.”

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