LGBTQ+
Asylee Edafe Okporo Helps Others At Harlem Refugee Shelter

Edafe Okporo was once homeless—now he’s helping others like him adapt to life in the U.S.

“I wouldn’t come to this country it I did not have a reason to flee,” he explained “But gay people all around the world suffer persecution.”
Okporo was forced to flee his home country of Nigeria after he was beaten and hospitalized for his work as an LGBTQ+ activist. He was held at the Elizabeth Detention Center for six months.

“The difficulty of staying in America begins from being in a detention center,” he said. “Because you’re isolated, you’re depressed, you have anxiety of what will happen next.”

Today, Okporo is the director of RDJ Refugee Shelter. He says it’s the only shelter in New York for homeless asylum seekers and refugees. He also said detention facilities can be particularly difficult for people in the LGBTQ+ community.

“You are likely to face people who are going through their own trauma and capitalize on you as an immigrant and just treat you as trash,” he said. “But even in the detention center, a lot of people there are from countries who do not have laws that protect LGBTQ persons so gay people suffer persecution.”

Okporo remains an activist for the LGBTQ+ community today and hopes the shelter can help provide a better experience for refugees.