Reports that gay men in Chechnya were being rounded up and tortured in prison camps there first emerged this past April. One St. Petersburg group stepped up to help, communicating with survivors through social media and a secret hotline to get LGBT Chechens to safety. So far, more than 70 Chechens have been able to quietly escape the republic, seeking asylum in countries throughout Europe and North America.
Known for its welcoming LGBT and immigration policies, Canada has taken in the most Chechen refugees, with more than 30 new arrivals since May. Once in Canada, a Toronto-based nonprofit assists refugees with housing and financial support.
VICE News went to Toronto to find out how some of them were able to flee Chechnya’s purge.