UCL European Institute


LGBTQ Migration and Asylum

This three-year project examined the unique experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer individuals in the context of migration to Europe.

The strand was led by Dr Richard Mole, Senior Lecturer in Political Sociology at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), and an expert on the relationship between identity and power, especially as it manifests in relation to sexuality, nationality, and migration.

What we were trying to do: aims and scope of the project

The aim of the project was to build on the small but growing academic literature that has emerged in recent years on migration by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) individuals. In geographical terms, most of this work focuses on the USA, with far less research conducted on migration by LGBTQ individuals to or within Europe, which is surprising given the significant disparities in social attitudes towards and the degree of legal protection for LGBTQ individuals across Europe and therefore the extent to which differences in said attitudes and rights could potentially act as push or pull factors in sending and receiving states, respectively. 

An even more recent phenomenon is LGBTQ asylum. It was only in 2013 that the European Court of Justice declared sexual orientation to be grounds for seeking asylum in the EU in line with the 'Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity' issued by the UNHCR in 2008, which stipulated that: 'A person cannot be expected or required by the state to change or conceal his or her [sexual] identity in order to avoid persecution. Nor is there a duty to be 'discreet' or take certain steps to avoid persecution, such as living a life of isolation, or refraining from having intimate relation-ships.' These phenomena give rise to a number of important issues that need to be addressed to capture the speci-ficities of LGBTQ migrants and asylum-seekers relative to the broader migrant/asylum-seeker population.

What we did: the three main events organised under this project

Workshop, May 2017
A first workshop was held in May 2017, at which academics working in a range of disciplines came to-gether to present and receive feedback on their ideas for research projects on themes relating to queer migration, diaspora and asylum. The participants were: Phillip Ayoub (Drexel), Dany Carnassale (Padua), Moira Dustin (Sussex), Calogero Giametta (Aix-Marseilles), James Hathaway (Michigan), Nina Held (Sussex), Nicola Mai (Kingston), Richard Mole (UCL), Roisin Ryan-Flood (Essex) and Robert Wintermute (KCL). 

International Conference, December 2017
The workshop was followed by an international conference - Queer migration, diaspora and asylum in Europe - on 9 December 2017. Participants included: Francesca Stella (University of Glasgow), Róisín Ryan-Flood (University of Essex), Łukasz Szulc (London School of Economics), Dany Carnassale (University of Padua), Phillip M. Ayoub (Drexel University), Robert Wintermute (King's College London), Moira Dustin and Nina Held (University of Sussex), Christian Klesse (Manchester Metropolitan University), Keith E. McNeal (University of Houston), Sarah French Brennan(Columbia University), Sebastiano Cesaro (University of Paris 8), Calogero Giametta (Aix-Marseille Université) and Nicola Mai (Kingston University).

Final research-to-policy workshop, May 2019
The final roundtable on Queer Asylum in Europe has brought together activists and policy-makers with hands-on experience of working with LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers. Following a keynote speech on ‘Protecting LGBTI refugees: a UNHCR perspective’ by Peter Grady, Senior Legal Officer at the UNHCR, Dr Richard Mole (UCL SSEES) chaired a roundtable discussion with Liz Barker (LGBT Spokesperson, House of Lords), Paul Dillane (Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust and Member of the UK Government LGBT Advisory Panel) and Moud Goba (Micro Rainbow International and UK Black Pride). 

The project's video footprint

An array of video shorts and recordings from our events has come out of this strand. Click here or on the image below.


Conferences and workshops


Brief description of our three events including relevant links. 



The video content available from the events and activities.



All the programmes of the different events and workshops.

Library guides

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UCL SSEES Library guides to resources on LGBTQ in Eastern Europe.