Rainbow Railroad


Rainbow Railroad’s life-saving work helps members of the LGBTQI+ community escape persecution and violence and find safety in a new country where they can live freely. Pictured: Sami and Mehraj. Credit: Raphael Chatelain


Rainbow Railroad is a global not-for-profit organization based in Canada and the United States whose mission is to help LGBTQI+ individuals around the world escape persecution and violence and find a pathway to safety. There are currently more than 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality or legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In these countries, LGBTQI+ people are routinely arrested, denied basic human rights, attacked and brutalized, and even murdered. 


Further exasperating this problem is the global refugee crisis which has displaced more than 80 million people worldwide—the largest number since the Second World War. For many reasons, LGBTQI+ people face unique challenges trying to claim refugee status and they are particularly vulnerable due to systemic homophobia and transphobia.  


As an internationally recognized human rights leader, Rainbow Railroad has facilitated safe travel and resettlement for more than 1,500 individuals since 2006 through its core Emergency Travel Support program. In addition, the organization has provided support to thousands more LGBTQI+ people through its advocacy work, partnerships with organizations working on the ground in hostile countries, and through short-term financial aid when moving someone across international borders is not a viable option.  


Each year, the requests for assistance received by Rainbow Railroad increase significantly, with more than 5,000 LGBTQI+ individuals reaching out for help in 2021 alone. The organization expects this trend to continue, exacerbated by the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in crackdowns on LGBTQI+ people in countries like Uganda, Ghana and most recently Afghanistan.  


TreadRight and Rainbow Railroad have a shared commitment to diversity, inclusion, and a more equitable future for all. TreadRight’s support will further Rainbow Railroad’s ability to help an increased number of persecuted LGBTQI+ individuals find safety through its Emergency Travel Support program, help enhance partnerships with organizations working on the ground to assist migrant and asylum seekers, and provide additional support to its beneficiaries through resources including accommodation, medical care, access to essential medicines and in-country relocation. 


The story of Rainbow Railroad beneficiaries Sami and Mehraj is a beautiful illustration of the organization’s life-changing work. The couple had been living in fear for their safety in Azerbaijan, under the constant threat of arrest and violence. After being evicted from their apartment and the target of multiple violent attacks for their sexuality, and many failed attempts at escaping the country, in 2019 they were finally able to escape to Spain with the help of Rainbow Railroad. Now, finally safe, they’re moving on with their lives, free to indulge in the ordinary pleasures of life while looking forward to getting married and having a family one day.  


This project supports SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities by providing LGBTQI+ individuals the opportunity to make a home where they are not systemically persecuted for their sexuality.