Belgium says it has given humanitarian visas to five gay men from Chechnya who face persecution for their sexual orientation in their native region in Russia's North Caucasus.
Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken said on April 6 that the five men had received visas from the Belgian Embassy in Moscow and now can travel to Belgium and stay there.
Francken added that more humanitarian visas may be issued to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from Chechnya in the future.
On April 3, a Russian group that defends LGBT rights said it had helped 114 people flee Chechnya to avoid persecution over their sexual orientation or that of their relatives since April 2017.
Russia has faced international pressure over the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, which Kremlin-backed regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled with an iron hand for over a decade.
The United States and European governments have urged Russia to investigate an alleged campaign of abuses -- including torture and murder -- against gay men in Chechnya that was first reported in April 2017 by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Since the report, gay men from Chechnya have given personal accounts to RFE/RL and other media of their escape from the abuse they faced.
Kadyrov denies the allegations and said in 2017: "We don't have those kinds of people here. We don't have any gays."