Rainbow Railroad Provides Refuge to LGBTQ People

Homosexual activity between consenting adults is still illegal in 73 countries. Rainbow Railroad is saving lives by helping LGBTQ people find a safe haven.

The organization saving LGBTQIA citizens from hostile governments

Millions of LGBTQIA people still face violence and persecution around the world. The Rainbow Railroad is working to help them find refuge and safe havens. Rainbow Railroad was founded as an advocacy charity in 2006. It's grown to help over 600 at-risk LGBTQIA people escape persecution in countries like Egypt, Chechnya Jamaica. Powell says that even the dangers of facing oppressors can be harrowing. There are currently 73 nations where homosexual activity between consenting adults is illegal according to Equaldex. Rainbow Railroad doesn’t accept any government funding, as Powell says that could compromise its mission statement. In their largest operation to date, Rainbow Railroad worked with Canada's foreign ministry to evacuate 42 Chechens, including Usman, and find them asylum in Canada according to CBS News.

With its name and concept inspired by the Underground Railroad that was used by African-American slaves to escape into free states. It received charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency in 2013, and also maintains a 501(c)(3) charity organization based in New York City to issue tax receipts to American donors. After the revelations about the anti-gay purges and concentration camps in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad began to mobilize emergency efforts to help LGBTQIA people get out of the region in collaboration with the Russian LGBTQIA Network. “We get requests for around the world of people who are facing life and death situations or in that danger. We deem them eligible, we have the means to provide a pathway to safety which are preparing them for relocation depending on which countries plus appropriate depending on where they're from we provide the ticket and actually pay for their relocation to a safer country and helps them get connected with resources to help them settle in the new country." Executive Director, Kimahli Powell states.

Applications have soared since 2014, when the organization began operating publicly. For Powell, success is defined differently.