Refugees, Borders & Immigration Summit

Activists and politicians discussed challenges regarding refugees, borders and immigration, both physically and digitally.

Refugees, Borders & Immigration Summit

The Refugees, Borders and Immigration Summit took place in the city of Malmö, Sweden. The theme of the Summit fell within the topic Borders, Decolonialization and Racism, one of the 10 topics of the Human Rights Forum.

The event had an international focus and targeted transnational situations. It discussed the intersectional needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTQIA+ refugees and forcibly displaced people with a focus on the search for sustainable solutions to issues that arise in this field. 

The Summit gathered a broad participatory audience both digitally and physically. We welcomed participants ranging from experts in this field, politicians, high level actors, people with lived experience as LGBTI+ refugees and forcibly displaced people and activists in this field. The event was held in English and interpreted into 21 other languages using worldly text translation services, this includes Spanish, French and Swedish.   

The program was planned in close collaboration with executive partners Rainbow Railroad, ORAM Refugee, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International with strong support from regional organizations working with the LGBTI+ refugee community and the UNHCR. We aimed for an inclusive event, covering contemporary situations and discussions, putting people with lived experiences at the center. 

The Summit covered topics such as displacement drivers, pathways, arrival at the destination country, the asylum seeking process and resettlement, also including networking opportunities.  

Co-hosts of the summit were the Swedish LGBTI+ policy expert Ulrika Westerlund and Swedish MEP and former Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke.

We recognized that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had an influence on Copenhagen 2021. Therefore, we ensured a digital solution to make sure that participants that cannot travel, can participate virtually. The digital platform was InvitePeople and we worked to maintain the interactive Summit aspects online as well as in person.

Immigration is a subject which generates significant public debate all over the world, including in Denmark and Sweden. These discussions are often seen as separate from discussions about LGBTI+ inclusion. LGBTI+ immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are often marginalized in discussions about the challenges facing the LGBTI+ community. This summit will take a triple tiered approach to the topic with three different knowledge tracks running simultaneously throughout the day ensuring inclusivity as we welcome people with different knowledge levels to dedicate themselves to this topic for a day of immersive learning and discussion.

Border incident

On August 20 2021 three buses of LGBTI+ activists participating in the Copenhagen 2021 WorldPride & EuroGames drove from Copenhagen to Malmö to attend the Refugees, Borders & Immigration Summit during the Copenhagen 2021 Human Rights Forum.

At the border between Denmark and Sweden, Swedish border patrol detained for more than two hours two activists originally from Uganda both having been granted legal asylum status in Germany and both carrying German identification papers.

Copenhagen 2021, LGBT + Denmark, and co-signatories to a statement issued after the event are aware of the challenges and often discriminatory practices that refugees and black and indigenous migrants and migrants of color experience in cross-border situations.

Furthermore, Copenhagen 2021, LGBT + Denmark, and co-signatories are painfully aware of the emotional implications unwarranted detention has on members of the LGBTI+ community with refugee status.

The Malmö team of Copenhagen 2021 is working with Swedish authorities to find out what happened and to ensure that it does not happen again.

Copenhagen 2021, LGBT + Denmark and co-signatories call on all European border patrol authorities to review border patrol practices in order to systematically address and prevent instances of unwarranted detention and racial profiling.

Copenhagen 2021, LGBT + Denmark and co-signatories call on all European authorities to ensure that the rights of refugees and black and indigenous migrants and migrants of color are being observed – especially pertaining to freedom of movement within the EU and the Schengen area.

Following the investigation, a full report will be published in November 2021.


Malmö is home to 184 nationalities that create the diverse and international DNA of the city. Copenhagen 2021 and Malmö Pride decided to organize the Summit in Malmö because of its long history of immigration and resettlement, which bring with it both challenges and opportunities.

When World War II ended, the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government drove survivors from concentration camps through Denmark to Malmö in the well-known white buses. Survivors of the holocaust found refuge in the 15th century castle Malmöhus.

Furthermore, numerous people fled the former Yugoslavia during the last Balkan Wars and found their new home in Sweden. In the last decade, thousands of Syrian people had to flee their home country because of war, and many relocated to Sweden. Most people arrived in Malmö where, with great effort, civil society worked together with authorities and other organizations helping refugees to resettle.

Summit Partners


Discussion Paper on LGBTIQ+ Persons in Forced Displacement and Statelessness

Summary Conclusions of the 2021 Global Roundtable on Protection and Solutions for LGBTIQ+ People in Forced Displacement

Speakers include
  • Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland
  • Carina Nilsson, Mayor of Malmö
  • Ryan Joseph Figueiredo, Founder and Executive Director for Equal Asia Foundation
  • Eirene Chen, independent Specialist, SOGIESC Forced Displacement
  • Kimahli Powell, Executive Director of Rainbow Railroad
  • Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency
  • Danilo Manzano, Director of the Diverse Dialogue Organization
  • Justin Hilton, Founder Safe Place International and Safe Place Greece
  • Steve Roth, Executive Director of ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration
  • Dr. S. Chelvan, Head of Immigration and Public Law, 33 Bedford Row Chambers
  • Vanilla Hussien, Refugee Trans Initiative
  • Devon Matthews, Director of Programs at Rainbow Railroad
  • Mariano Ruiz, Project Coordinator at Fundación AMAL Argentina
  • Aino Gröndahl, Lawyer, specialized in SOGIESC asylum law
  • Wilson Tasurarira, PASSOP Programmes Manager
  • Miriam Gleckman-Krut, Sociology PhD candidate at the University of Michigan

Partners and Sponsors

See the full list of Partners and Sponsors