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Reducing risk and building agency for vulnerable asylum seekers

Megan K. O’Connor, MS, Erik Wood, MS, Tim Frazier, PhD


Asylum seekers are inherently vulnerable. Certain populations who were vulnerable before becoming asylum seekers, such as females, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual identities (LGBTQ+) persons, and unaccompanied minors (UAMs) become increasingly vulnerable when seeking asylum. This study conducted a focused literature review of these three groups that led to a series of recommendations. Findings reveal that female, LGBTQ+, and UAM asylum seekers are three of the most underserved groups in the humanitarian social vulnerability context. Ongoing barriers to supporting programs include bureaucratic shortfalls, lack of funding, turnover of support staff, and lack of national or local support. This research produced three main recommendation categories. The first, overarching, recommendation is the building of agency within these populations through dialogue. This recommendation is explored in the most detail. The final two recommendations include enforcing protection of these groups and providing access to physical and mental healthcare. Female, LGBTQ+, and UAM asylum seekers struggle to survive the prevalent violence, sexual assault, and health issues associated with their circumstance. Related programing can more effectively address all these threats if they are tailored to the specific needs of these groups.


LGBTQ, asylum, emergency management, UAM, refugee, migration, GBV

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