Africa

Grim future for LGBT refugees in Kenya?

Students attend class in crowded classroom at Kakuma refugee camp (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)

Students attend class in crowded classroom at Kakuma refugee camp (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)

The hundreds of LGBT refugees in Kenya are nervous about their future in the wake of Kenya’s threat to close the huge refugee camps that shelter 400,000 people who have fled wars and disruptions throughout East Africa.

Many of the LGBT refugees left Uganda to get away from anti-gay violence there. Some are in the 55,000-refugee Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya, but most are in Nairobi, struggling to survive with limited or no income as they continue to hope for long-delayed resettlement abroad.

The O-blog-dee advocacy blog reported:

Kenyan house shared by four LGBTQ Ugandan refugees. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Kenyan house shared by four LGBTQ Ugandan refugees. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Bedroom at a Kenyan safe house for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi) bedroom for Ugandan LGBT refugees 3 2015

Bedroom at a Kenyan safe house for Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. (Photo by Frank Kamya courtesy of Stella Nyanzi) bedroom for Ugandan LGBT refugees 3 2015

The Government of Kenya has announced that it intends to close all refugee camps in the country, and while UNHCR [the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees] implores Kenya to reverse this decision, we await information as to how they plan to deal with what could be a severe crisis.

LGBT refugees, after seeing the headlines, are now extremely stressed and uncertain as to how their cases will continue in the UNHCR system and are worried about their ability to survive, financially, as a prime funding organization withdraws its stipends.

The closure impacts mostly those people who have fled war-torn Somalia and Sudan. Kenya is threatening to send them back and to build a wall preventing future entry. In addition, and making up a very small portion of the refugee population, are those refugees who have escaped anti-homosexuality laws and persecution in several African countries.

There are approximately 300 LGBT refugees either mandated or with mandates still pending in Kenya. They are mostly from Uganda and also Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and DRC [the Democratic Republic of the Congo]. At this time, we are still unsure of how UNHCR will handle these cases. Most of the LGBT refugees are not in the camps and are living in urban areas, such as Nairobi. However there are some living in Kakuma camp at this time.

It has been taking approximately two years for a legitimate LGBT refugee to be resettled abroad. To date scores have been resettled in countries such as Europe, Canada, USA and Iceland. Survival in Kenya pending resettlement has been extremely challenging. HIAS [the international migration and refugee resettlement agency, founded in 1881 and formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] has provided stipends to help urban refugees survive. However several months ago refugees were warned that the stipends would end in June, 2016. Now this news has added to the uncertainty and stress. …

Groups of LGBT refugees have been forming to create small businesses in the urban areas in the hope of generating income for survival.  However given this news of closure, it is highly unlikely that these micro businesses will survive the likely clamp down on urban refugees by Kenyan police.

It is clear that all refugees are not welcome in Kenya and the worry is that the Kenyan government will not honor the UN protection of refugees. Already LGBTI refugees have been the target of police harassment and brutality.    There is no knowing where this will lead.  We as an international LGBTI community need to start preparing, through critical fundraising, so we are ready to help LGBTI refugees, when this emergency heightens.

California-based O-blog-dee blogger Melanie Nathan, who founded and runs the African Human Rights Coalition, added:

As Executive Director of  the African Human Rights Coalition,  I am pleading to our community to take note and to consider much-needed donations, in whatever amount, so we are ready to shelter and feed LGBT refugees, beyond their current urgent needs:

Please help us provide direct funding to help LGBT Refugees – DONATIONS HERE  (Not tax-deductible). [As of this article’s publication date, more than $1,800 had been donated through that YouCaring appeal.]

Tax-deductible donations to continue the work of advocating and providing safe shelter for LGBT refugees DONATIONS HERE.

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One thought on “Grim future for LGBT refugees in Kenya?

  1. Pingback: People-to-people: How to help LGBT folks in repressive lands | 76 CRIMES

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