Travel has been one of the worst hit industries by COVID-19. It’s hard to find a form of travel that hasn’t had to undergo changes, with aspects like aviation almost coming to a complete halt at several points in 2020.
Holidays, weddings, trips to visit long distance family, and even flights home from foreign getaways have been made so much harder by the hurdles the virus has created for the travel industry. As a result, travel is another part of life that is being put on hold in order to keep our populations safe.
Although there is the good news that 2021 may be a much better year for us, it is likely that some restrictions are going to still be in place for the foreseeable future. While it’s completely understandable to want to get away as soon as possible, to make up for missed time with loved ones, or have a much needed break, it’s important to have sympathy for those whose safety has been put at risk due to not being able to leave their home country.
It’s common knowledge that there are countries who are not accepting of LGBT+ individuals. Unfortunately due to the hostility they receive in their own country, many of these individuals feel the need to emigrate to a more progressive place. In 2019 alone, there were over 1,200 LGBT+ asylum seekers that came to the UK.
Even if LGBT+ individuals are in the fortunate enough position to attempt moving, there are a lot of procedures depending on where they are coming from and where they are immigrating to. With the right help, immigration can be made a lot smoother, but even those cases have been made almost impossible due to current travel restrictions.
While many of us are looking forward to these restrictions lifting, for those who are fleeing from discrimination it is often a matter of personal safety. As those who can travel are allowed to again, it’s important to consider those who are waiting to make a life-changing move in order to live out their lives openly as LGBT+ people without the risk of prejudice and potential prison sentences, depending on where they are.
It is easy to imagine why these individuals would want to move, especially considering those living in places where just being themselves is a criminal offence. While living in a culture that won’t accept your LGBT+ identity may be scary enough, having to hide who you are or face a prison sentence is a very real nightmare for some. The fate of those who are prosecuted for being LGBT+ is often worse than just time in prison as the harassment they receive from actual criminals can be fatal; while moving to another country can promise a better life for them, it can simply promise life in general.
This year has given many of us a chance to understand what it’s like to have our freedom taken away by something outside of our control. This is the case for the many LGBT+ people living in inhospitable countries and environments. While our liberties are only temporarily halted, for our personal safety, it is not the same case for them.
As a British gay man, I have had the incredible privilege of growing up in a country where I have the freedom to be who I am and have the same access and rights that my non-LGBT+ friends and family members have. Every LGBT+ person has a right to this, and while ideally this calls for a change in the attitude of those hostile countries, a more immediate resolution would be clearer pathways for those who feel unsafe in their own country to move to a more welcoming one.
When travel becomes a regular occurrence again, there are people who will be relieved as they imagine destination vacations and a break from work from home. However, few will be more relieved than those who are finally allowed to emigrate and start a new life for themselves, that is truly theirs.