Germany has granted a gay man fleeing persecution in Chechnya a humanitarian visa.
The German Foreign Ministry confirmed to the New York Times it had admitted one man, who arrived in the country last Tuesday, on a special visa on humanitarian grounds.
Three other men have met with officials at the German Embassy in Moscow, a ministry spokesperson told the publication, while another man’s application is being reviewed.
In April, independent Russian media and human rights groups said at least 100 men had been detained and violently tortured in Chechen prisons because of their homosexuality, with several men reportedly dead. Since then, human rights advocates have worked to get such men to safety.
Last month, Lithuania’s foreign minister announced on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia that his government had granted visas to two Chechens who had “suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation.”
Gay rights group ILGA-Europe said in recent weeks several other European countries had also entered into discussions on admitting gay refugees on the grounds of persecution.
“The crisis is ongoing, so we have been working on asylum, on getting people out beyond the borders of Russia, since staying in Russia is not a safe alternative,” ILGA-Europe official Daina Rudusa told the New York Times.
“Some people have already made it out, but many remain in safe houses throughout Russia applying for visas and trying to escape.”
Officials with the Russian LGBT Network, an advocacy group based in St. Petersburg, said about 100 people had asked them for assistance and they were helping them seek asylum in other countries.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly denied the persecution of the Chechen men, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have called for Russian president Vladimir Putin to intervene.
“I spoke about the very negative reports about what is happening to homosexuals in Chechnya and asked Mr. President to exert his influence to ensure that minorities’ rights are protected,” Merkel said last month after meeting with Putin.
Macron also raised the issue with Mr. Putin, speaking at a joint press conference of the importance of respecting “all people, all minorities” and pledged to regularly check with him on the subject.
In Australia, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said Australia “has made direct representations to the Russian Government” about a “credible investigation” into the issue but local advocates say more action is needed.
“We would like to see the Australian Government sponsor a UN resolution condemning the persecution in Chechnya and offer asylum to those gay and bisexual men currently being persecuted by the Chechen authorities,” just.equal campaigner Rodney Croome said last week.