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‘Rainbow Railroad’ Helps LGBTQ Youth Escape Countries That Persecute Them

Even in 2019 there are countries where it’s not safe to be LGBTQ and where people can be punished, imprisoned, or worse simply for being who they are. A group called Rainbow Railroad aims to rescue people from such circumstances so they can live a life of freedom.

Rainbow Railroad was founded in 2006 and is based in Toronto. The group says it has helped evacuate more than 600 LGBTQ people from 22 countries where their sexual orientation or gender identity put them at risk and told CBS it received “more than 1,000” requests for help last year.

Taking its name from the Underground Railroad, the network that famously helped slaves escape to freedom in the 1800s, the group helps at-risk LGBTQ individuals secure visas and pays for flights to get them out of hostile territory.

CBS News provides an in-depth look at how the group works and how it’s helping people all over the world, including two gay friends from Egypt who were persecuted and even locked in solitary confinement simply for waving a rainbow flag at a concert. One of the men called the moment of freedom he felt when waving the rainbow flag openly the “best five minutes of my life” but video of the event drew negative attention in Egypt and led to him being imprisoned and then having to flee.

Meanwhile in Kingston, Jamaica a gay man who has been forced to sleep in the sewers told CBS “If I was not gay I wouldn’t be here, I’d be at home. But because of my lifestyle, and they found out about me, that’s why I’m here.”

The interviews with LGBTQ asylum seekers, some of whom have been violently attacked or driven into homelessness because of their identity, are harrowing but it’s clear Rainbow Railroad is making an enormous difference in the lives of those they help.

You can watch the full segment below.

h/t: CBS News

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