Germany’s first shelter for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite and intersex migrants is hidden away on a quiet, leafy road in Berlin, where dozens of migrants are kept under round-the-clock security to protect them from fellow migrants who are hostile to homosexuality.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a shelter with straight refugees,” said Bashar Taha, an ethnic Kurd from northern Iraq. “It’s too dangerous. Many people from the Middle East are very homophobic — people get beaten and even killed.”
Stephan Jakel, a therapist and the centre’s manager, said: “Many of our residents are traumatised.”
Most gay migrants coming to Germany hide their sexuality for fear of being attacked by compatriots, says Jakel. Others face such danger the state of Berlin has decided they are people with “special reception needs”. Shocked by the violence, including stabbings, suffered by gay people at the hands of their compatriots in refugee camps, German authorities initially offered separate accommodation in hotels and private apartments but specifically designed shelters are now preferred.
Security guards, including a veteran of the Berlin nightclub scene, have been chosen with care; only those showing sensitivity to gay issues are accepted.