Soon after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Micro Rainbow began offering assistance and support to LGBTQI Ukrainians who felt compelled to leave because of the worsening situation in the country. The project helps LGBTQI Ukrainians who are still in Ukraine or neighbouring countries, facilitating some of the steps involved in applying for visas for the UK, and then supports them once they reach Britain. In the summer of 2022, Micro Rainbow brought a dedicated outreach officer on board to provide additional support for the project. If you want to help us continue this work, please become an ally today!
Supporting vulnerable LGBTQI Ukrainians when they reach the UK
A key consideration throughout the project was the safeguarding of vulnerable LGBTQI Ukrainians in their new homes in the UK. We partnered with a hosting scheme, Refugees at Home, to find suitable and vetted hosts. Another concern was access to expert and LGBTQI friendly legal advice to process visa applications. To this end, Micro Rainbow partnered with several top law firms who provided their services pro-bono, including Wesley Gryk and Weil Gotshal. 27 solicitors at Weil Gotshal have now been trained to sensitively support LGBTQI Ukrainians with their visa applications.
Essential outreach work with LGBTQI Ukrainians
Micro Rainbow’s outreach officer functions as an initial point of contact for LGBTQI Ukrainians trying to leave the country or those who have reached a neighbouring one. They speak Russian fluently and have some knowledge of Ukrainian, which helps to facilitate communication. With each person they check their preferred language of communication, to make sure they feel comfortable and understood. They can act as a go-between when coordinating with lawyers. Their work helps to condense and streamline the process and speed up communication. When Ukrainians reach the UK, the outreach officer can connect them with organisations such as Citizens Advice and help clients to understand their rights. They are also encouraged to join Micro Rainbow’s social inclusion and moving on programmes.
Support to Ukrainians outside of Ukraine
One LGBTQI Ukrainian, Ivan, was supported by Micro Rainbow throughout his journey to the UK. Ivan had left Ukraine before the war had started, but not long after Russia invaded his visa expired and, unable to return, he was stuck in Poland.
Anti-gay laws in Poland mean that it can be an extremely hostile place for LGBTQI people. Living as a refugee in Poland was becoming increasingly difficult, so in late 2022, Ivan began the process of applying for asylum in the UK. Micro Rainbow supported him while he made his journey to the UK and liaised to secure him a host through Refugees at Home. Collaborative work between Micro Rainbow and Refugees at Home meant that a LGBTQI sponsor and homestay was found for Ivan. He was also connected with Wesley Gryk solicitors, a top immigration law firm, who then were able to support Ivan pro-bono through the visa application process.
Stories like Ivan’s mean that LGBTQI Ukrainians are increasingly hearing about Micro Rainbow’s work through word of mouth. More people are beginning to get in contact from countries such as Poland and Hungary, because of their hostility to LGBTQI people. Ukrainians are beginning to feel more confident about referring their partners and friends to Micro Rainbow’s Ukrainian project to help them leave Ukraine and find safety in the UK.
Living openly and safely in the UK
Arkady is a more recent contact through the programme and found Micro Rainbow through word of mouth. He lived in eastern Ukraine, closer to the Russian border, and he found it difficult to be honest about his sexuality. He lived with constant psychological pressure as a result. The Russian invasion meant that his life in Ukraine was becoming more and more dangerous, and he left the country in mid-2022.
After contacting Micro Rainbow, Arkady has been helped throughout the process of resettlement in the UK by our outreach officer. He has found the ability to communicate with someone in his language has been greatly beneficial to him. He said he found it comforting, and it has helped his confidence.
When he was living in eastern Ukraine, he was unable to live openly as a gay man. Being supported through the visa process by an explicitly pro-LGBTQI organisation has helped him to feel more at peace with his identity.
Impact of the project
Since February 2022, Micro Rainbow has already helped over 50 Ukrainians like Ivan and Arkady access lifesaving support and connected them with key partners. Over 30 have received visas or are being assisted through the visa process after being connected to legal support through Micro Rainbow. On the one-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion, Micro Rainbow continues to support LGBTQI Ukrainians like Roman, Ivan and Arkady. We will continue to support them and the other LGBTQI Ukrainians in the UK with social inclusion and moving on support and will do so until the situation changes. However, this work is only partially funded with small grants from LandAid and Choose Love. You can help us continue this life saving work by becoming an ally today.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting too much from Micro Rainbow initially. My friend suggested to contact you, because you helped him to resolve some issues. However, he was in the UK, whereas I was in still in mainland Europe. I’m very grateful to Micro Rainbow. I moved to England, got my BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) and received support. Now I have the chance to live without feeling ashamed of who I am. My life has changed for the better”.Andriy, who was supported by Micro Rainbow through his journey to the UK from Ukraine
“I got in touch with Micro Rainbow because I believed they were a trustworthy and friendly organisation. I highly appreciate your work and competence. My situation has improved – I have a chance now!”
Krystiyan, who is being supported by Micro Rainbow