Toronto-based nonprofit Rainbow Railroad is working with the Canadian government to give sanctuary to gay and lesbian Chechnyan refugees fleeing persecution in their home country. The nonprofit helps LGBTs escape state-sponsored violence in countries around the world. Executive director Kimahli Powell revealed in a Facebook video that Rainbow Railroad had been covertly working with the Canadian government over the past three months to aid the refugees.
An anti-gay purge in Chechnya began earlier this year, involving the arrest, detaining, beating and torturing of gays by law enforcement. Though at least three deaths have been reported, the Chechen government claims the purge never happened, and in a recent HBO interview, Chechen leader Ramzan A. Kadyrov denied the existence of gay people within his country altogether. In response, Powell and the Canadian government quietly created an underground railroad program that has expedited safe passage for 31 government-assisted refugees between June and August, mostly arriving from safe houses in Russia, with more to be expected.