Traumatic Stress Among Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees From the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Who Fled to the European Union

Author(s): Edward J. ALESSI, Sarilee KAHN, Leah WOOLNER, Rebecca Van Der HORN

https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22346

Abstract

In 2015, more than 600,000 individuals from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan fled to Europe in search of protection. Among the most understudied of this population are individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). These individuals have not only fled war but also violence due to their sexual and/or gender identities. At the same time, LGBTQ individuals from other parts of the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and North Africa have also fled to Europe to escape persecution. The purpose of this multimethod study was to understand how traumatic stress shaped the experiences of 38 LGBTQ individuals who fled to Austria (n = 19) and the Netherlands (n = 19) from these regions. We assessed participants for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and conducted qualitative interviews to understand their migration experiences. Of the 37 participants assessed for PTSD, 33 (89.2%) reported that their most distressing event occurred prior to migration. For the 24 (64.9%) participants who met criteria for a provisional diagnosis of PTSD, 15 reported that the precipitating event was related to their sexual and/or gender identities and 9 reported that it was related to another type of event (e.g., war). Grounded theory was used to analyze qualitative data. Themes demonstrated that participants encountered targeted violence and abuse throughout migration and upon their arrival in Austria and the Netherlands. Findings indicate that LGBTQ refugees may be vulnerable to ongoing trauma from other refugees and immigration officials. Recommendations for protecting and supporting LGBTQ refugees during humanitarian emergencies are provided.

Tags: Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Austria, Netherlands, Refugees, Sexual minorities, LGBT, PTSD

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