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With Trump stymied, LGBTQ refugees reach the U.S.

Ugandan LGBTQ refugee Simon Kwesigabo took this selfie on the plane to the United States.
Ugandan LGBTQ refugee Simon Kwesigabo took this selfie on Feb. 10 on the plane to the United States.

LGBTQ refugees and others have reached the United States in recent days, benefiting from the court-ordered stay on President Donald Trump’s Jan. 29 executive order that sought to tighten border controls. Among them was pre-screened Ugandan refugee Simon Kwesigabo, who had been left homeless on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, after Trump’s executive order canceled his scheduled mid-February flight to the United States.

NBC News reported on how the temporary stay eased the work of the African Human Rights Coalition, which helps Ugandan LGBTQ refugees seeking to relocate from Kenya to the United States:

Executive Director Melanie Nathan was elated when she heard the news.

“I was sitting here sweating because my trans[gender] refugee is in the air between Nairobi and [Europe], which will be her first stop right now, and I had visions of her having to be stuck in [Europe] or rerouted. There’s just been so much drama,” Nathan told NBC Out just minutes after the news was announced.

The activist had been working day and night to get six LGBTQ African refugees into the U.S. before President Trump’s suspension could get reinstated. She said the transgender refugee, whose identity and nationality are being hidden for her protection, had waited two years to come to the U.S. where she could live free from persecution for her gender identity.

“These are people who are discriminated against and criminalized in their country and persecuted and their lives are at grave risk,” Nathan said. “They’ve gone through years of vetting and finally they’re on their way here.”

Simon Kwesigabo horses around at the Frankfurt airport as he awaits his flight to the United States. (Photo courtesy of Simon Kwesigabo)
Simon Kwesigabo horses around at the Frankfurt airport as he awaits his flight to the United States. (Photo courtesy of Simon Kwesigabo)

Kwesigabo had been scheduled to fly to the United States on Feb. 14, until Trump’s order blocked his entry into the U.S. After the Feb. 3 stay on the order, the International Organization for Migration quickly rescheduled his flight for Feb. 9.

The story of the anti-gay violence that drove him out of Uganda is told in the article, “Scarred in Uganda, LGBT refugee is about to reach safety in U.S.,” which was published before Trump signed the executive order.

The story of his days as a homeless man in Nairobi  is told in the article, “Kenya: I’m homeless because of Trump’s refugee order.” In that article, he is given the pseudonym “Steven” because he had encountered hostility from people who read the previous article, which used his real name.

Kwesigabo flew from Nairobi via Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 9-10. He is currently living with a sponsor family in Walnut Creek, California, until he can get a job and afford an apartment of his own.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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