NEW YORK, April 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Canada
should open its doors to LGBT people from Chechnya where dozens
of men have been reported to be imprisoned and tortured because
they are believed to be gay, a Canadian advocacy group says.
The call for emergency visas came from Rainbow Railroad
which said it was working with a Russian non-profit group to
help people flee Chechnya through a global network of safe
"We're expanding our on-the-ground contacts as well as
increasing our capacity to identify and assess new or
alternative safe routes out of Chechnya," said Kimahli Powell,
executive director of Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBT
(lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people facing violence
or death escape their countries.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has reported
that up to 100 men have been thrown in secret prisons in
Russia's southern region of Chechnya, and that some men have
A Kremlin spokesman told journalists on Thursday that the
claims were groundless.
"These reports are distortion of reality, slander," said
Dmitry Peskov in a conference call. "There are no such people."
But the United Nations has urged the abuses to end, and the
57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) has called for Russia to investigate the reports.
Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad said it was formally
requesting humanitarian or refugee visas from the Canadian
government for those in danger.
A spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Canada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: "We cannot speculate
on any future policy."
Canada chooses whom it accepts as refugees by relying on the
U.N. and others for referrals, she said.
The crackdown in Chechnya came after several cities in the
North Caucasus, where the Chechen republic is located, sought
permits to stage gay pride parades, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in some 70 countries but
not in Russia, said Maria Sjödin, a spokeswoman for OutRight
Action International, a New York City-based group that advocates
for LGBT rights.
But a law limiting the dissemination of information on LGBT
issues to young people has emboldened people to grow violent
toward LGBT people, she said.
"On top of that, there are reports that police are not
investigating," said Sjödin.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, additional
reporting by Denis Pinchuk. Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.