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Tim Throsby, President of Barclays International and CEO of Barclays Corporate and Investment Bank, recently moderated a panel discussion about the current global landscape for LGBT rights. The panel included representatives from Immigration Equality, which provides pro bono legal services to LGBT immigrants, and IraQueer, Iraq’s only LGBT organisation.

Throsby, who also serves as Deputy Board Chair for the Human Dignity Trust, which supports activists and lawyers challenging anti-LGBT laws around the world, focused the conversation on how increasing persecution of LGBT people is driving immigration, and how individuals and corporates can help.

“We have five lawyers on our staff and 680 open client matters – we couldn’t litigate them on all on our own,” said Aaron Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality.

Our clients, many of whom face life-or-death situations, depend on our partnerships with lawyers employed by corporations, including Barclays, and law firms who donate time with mentorship from our team.
Aaron Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality
Peter Staley, Kelsey Louie and Jes Staley

Left to right: Tim Throsby, Amir Ashour of IraQueer, and Aaron Morris of Immigration Equality

Ksenia Sourina, a counsel on the Barclays Legal team who supports the commodities business and the implementation of derivatives regulations, helped initiate Barclays’ partnership with Immigration Equality in 2015. Barclays is currently one of only three corporates working directly with Immigration Equality, and the first bank to have this unique partnership.

Amir Ashour, founder and Executive Director of IraQueer, shared that one of the biggest challenges facing the LGBT community in repressive countries is the lack of visibility. "You will hear in countries like Iran or Iraq or Chechnya, 'We don't have LGBT people here.’ That makes it very difficult to change minds, much less change laws,” he said. “At IraQueer, we are literally inventing words in Arabic and Kurdish for LGBT people because the only words that exist are offensive ones.”

Aaron highlighted the urgency for LGBT immigrants. “Every email we get begins with, 'I need to get out of the country, my life is in danger,’” he said. Both Immigration Equality and IraQueer leverage encryption technology for their global communications because even contacting an LGBT organisation can put an individual’s safety at risk.

From the perspective of the corporate world, Throsby commented that while policies at multinational corporations may be supportive of LGBT people, “an interesting test is whether we as individuals speak up when others we interact with in a business context don’t behave in the right way on these issues.”

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