I stumbled across the charity Trans Rescue, which helps transgender people living in unsafe parts of the world move. They've published advice for people living in first world countries with worsening legal situations for trans people, but the vast majority of their funding goes toward helping people in Africa and the Middle East immigrate to safer countries (or for Kenyans, move to Trans Rescue's group home in the safest region of Kenya) and stay away from abusive families.

As of September 2022, their total funding since inception was just under 33k euros https://transrescue.org/where-does-the-money-go . They helped about twenty people move using this funding https://transrescue.org/some-things-weve-done/ . That puts the cost to help a person move at about 1,650 euros, which is in the same ballpark as a Givewell top charity's cost to save one person from fatal malaria.

I haven't looked closely at the likely outcome for people who would benefit from Trans Rescue's services but don't get help. Some would live and some would not, but I don't have a good sense of the relative numbers, or how to put QUALYs on undertaking a move such as this. Since they're very new and very small, I'm considering donating and keeping an eye on how they grow as an organization.

Mainly I hoped you all could help me by pointing out whether there's anything fishy that I might have missed. This review https://transrescuewatch.medium.com/the-trans-rescue-papers-when-help-looks-more-like-human-trafficking-exploitation-4e3d7886bfbc was published by a group of Twitter users, apparently after an argument with one of the board members. It's certainly not unbiased, but they do seem to have made a concerted effort to find anything bad or construable as bad that Trans Rescue has ever done. Trans Rescue wrote a blog post in response https://transrescue.org/responding-to-our-attackers . I came away with a sense that the board is new at running an organization like this, and they rely on imperfect volunteer labor to be able to move as many people as they do, but their work is overall helpful to their clients.


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I’m really happy to see you asking this question and doing an investigation of a charity and a cause yourself. It makes intuitive sense to me that moving from a very dangerous place to a very safe one would have long term benefits to well-being and seems worth doing additional investigation on the intervention.

It’s hard to know how much risk people are facing and how much improvement people will experience by moving; migration has upsides (eg better economic opportunity) and downsides (eg isolation from family). I’m not an expert on either but would be excited to see you do any additional analysis on this that you can do and post about it.

I think an ideal version of the EA Forum would have a lot of people willing to help you analyze this issue and work out answers for yourself. Please don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a lot of feedback here though. The EA Forum has happened to develop into a place with a high concentration of people primarily interested in AI, biosecurity, and animal welfare. There are definitely people around with other interests but you might have to hunt around for them.

David D

Thank you so much for this thoughtful and encouraging answer.

These are good things to think about. I'll see if I can find any research on migration in general. I get the sense most of Trans Rescue's clients didn't have good family relationships before moving, which does change the equation some, but it's a starting point for which research probably exists.

I'll try to post if I do any analysis that's worth posting. I'll also look deeper into EA forum and see if I can find advice for approaching small, young organizations like this. (On my to-do list is aski... (read more)

David D

Apr 12, 2023


I had the opportunity to talk to one of the board members of Trans Rescue and wrote a post with some additional information, focusing on their operations in East Africa helping LGBTQ+ Ugandans of all sorts escape the wave of homophobic violence happening there. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/zC5CNAv8dCMyhtxW2/trans-rescue-s-operations-in-uganda-high-impact-giving

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A few things that come to mind:

  1. This will be less than 1650 pounds to move someone on the margin, since 33k is total funding and some of it must be covering fixed costs.
  2. This is a crazy low cost to migrate people once you consider visa/legal costs, and it makes me worry that they are not providing a good enough landing pad for people in the countries that they move to. That's not a fatal flaw - it could be easily fixed if they had more money - but that will push up the cost of moving someone.
  3. In general, one time interventions that cause persistent benefits to people will be quite effective because they don't have any cumulative costs.
  4. The effectiveness of Trans Rescue will depend tremendously on the implementation and trustworthiness of the organization, like you pointed out. I think it would make sense for EA grantmakers to reach out to them for a vetting/offering them a small grant and monitor them. If all goes well this could be pretty effective.
David D

I would absolutely love to see the result of vetting from someone more experienced than myself (that is, experienced at all). I've been out of the loop for a while - is EA Funds the main EA grantmaker, or are there others too?

Given the low amount of funding overall, I suspect board members or volunteers might be contributing to the organization's operating expenses in a way that isn't tracked, which could substantially change the equation. The financial report they published was focused on proving they were using donations for the stated purpose, and not really intended for an efficiency evaluation.

These are all great points; thank you for raising them.

On 2, couldn't they settle as refugees (facing persecution)? Governments should cover the costs.

In Canada, private individuals can also sponsor refugees by covering their living expenses. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/help-outside-canada/private-sponsorship-program.html

David D

Aside from the Kenyan clients (who don't leave their country and instead get a safer place to stay and help finding jobs in a safer part of their own country), they ultimately get settled as refugees facing persecution.

One possible concern for people settled as refugees in other countries: if the countries have set a maximum number of refugees they accept and would have met that number anyway, then someone else who would have been accepted won't be, and the counterfactual impact could be much lower.