A Qualitative Exploration of the Integration Experiences of LGBTQ Refugees Who Fled from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia to Austria and the Netherlands

  • Edward J. AlessiEmail author
  • Sarilee Kahn
  • Brett Greenfield
  • Leah Woolner
  • Dean Manning


The European Union accepted more than one million refugees from Muslim-majority countries in 2015. However, Islamophobic social conditions have created numerous hardships as they attempt to integrate into European society. This situation may be especially challenging for refugees identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). They not only experience discrimination from multiple sources but also lack connections with their diaspora communities. This qualitative study examined the experiences of LGBTQ refugees who migrated from Islamic societies to Austria (n = 19) and the Netherlands (n = 19). We conducted semi-structured interviews to understand how they experienced integration. Additionally, we interviewed five LGBTQ refugee service providers to triangulate data and enrich findings. We identified the following themes: precarious livelihoods, the complexity of depending on others, still not free, and you’re Muslim; we don’t want you. Findings indicated that participants experienced uncertainty regarding the asylum process, including issues related to the Dublin Regulation. Although participants relied on host community members to ease integration, they also encountered discrimination based on race, religion, and immigration status. In Vienna, this discrimination was experienced as overt, whereas in Amsterdam, it was subtler. Participants also encountered discrimination based on their sexual and gender identity from other refugees, compromising their ability to receive services needed to facilitate integration. The article concludes with recommendations for promoting the integration of LGBTQ refugees into the European Union.


LGBTQ refugees Integration Islamophobia European Union Dublin Regulation 



We are extremely grateful to Queer Base and The Secret Garden who helped us recruit participants for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward J. Alessi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarilee Kahn
    • 2
  • Brett Greenfield
    • 1
  • Leah Woolner
    • 2
  • Dean Manning
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social WorkRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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