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Desperate LGBT refugees seek a way out, though it's 'suicidal'

Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where most Ugandan refugees are held (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)
Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where many Ugandan LGBTI refugees are held (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)

Many Ugandan LGBTI refugees at the crowded, grim Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya have grown desperate about their long-delayed prospects for resettlement. They’re so desperate, in fact, that they are threatening to walk out of the camp in hopes of better treatment elsewhere, perhaps even if that means they would try to walk to another country.

The idea of reaching relatively tolerant South Africa is appealing, but it’s more than 4,000 kilometers away.

“I believe the walk out is suicidal,” says South African-American LGBTI rights advocate Melanie Nathan in her O-blog-dee blog. “They believe they have no choice!”

Nathan wrote on Sept. 15:

Ugandan LGBTI Refugees Under UNHCR to Walk Out with Nowhere to Go

An LGBT refugee after a recent altercations with Kenyan authorities at the camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee and Facebook)
An LGBT refugee after a recent altercations with Kenyan authorities at the camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee and Facebook)

There is a large group of Ugandan LGBTI refugees who are in Kakuma Camp, in Kenya. These refugees have been fleeing Uganda’s anti-homosexuality climate, which was heightened by the passage of the now defunct Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, otherwise known as “The Kill the Gays Bill. ” Some have been there for several years in the hope of resettling to a country abroad where homosexuality is not criminalized and where LGBT people are treated equally.

The refugees have faced extreme hostility, with host country Kenya barely providing the promise of adequate sanctuary, free of persecution expected of a host country. In fact this host country Kenya also criminalizes homosexuality and exerts extreme homophobia in its dealings with LGBTI refugees. The refugees have also expressed frustration and anger toward UNHCR, the organization charged with their resettlement, as further explained in their complaint below.

They understand that even merely complaining and asking for better treatment comes at great risk, and many are expressing that they have come to the end of the road, where they feel they simply cannot continue under the current circumstances. They are going to a further extreme – they want to walk out of Kakuma in Kenya, and to go to a different country.

The problem is what country? Where else can they go? Not single country in Africa is able to provide adequate host protection and wherever they go they will still be at the hands of what they believe to be a dilatory slow process of UNHCR. I believe the walk out is suicidal. They believe they have no choice!

These refugees are in Kakuma camp hoping to be resettled abroad. Some have already been resettled after an extreme vetting process of 2- 3 years. Those who have yet to be resettled fear they have been ignored and that their process has come to a halt. Several who have already been assigned the USA have had their process thwarted by the Trump administration’s suspension of the entire USA refugee program, and this is causing confusion, hardship and ongoing uncertainty.

Here is what they are saying in their own words:

Sleeping conditions at Kakuma Camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee blog and Facebook)
Sleeping conditions at Kakuma Camp (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee blog and Facebook)

All the LGBTI members are saying that in case they fail to be attended to positively according to their expectations as regards to these mentioned challenges that they are getting through of currently they are leaving the country as mentioned in this current email.

Most numbers of LGBTI’s refugees flee from Uganda to Kenya and in their arrival they were registered to the UNHCR under the Kenyan government for protection. But they were unwelcomed and settled in hostile communities that have proved negatively affective to their live hood in the following manner;

1.The host community has refused to identify and acknowledge their sexual orientation, and has always proved to be a threat to their stay by torturing, bullying, and dehumanizing them .

2.Economic distress and segregation by the majority numbers of other refugees hosted in the camp who prove homophobic and would like to exclude all LGBTI’s since they regard to them as cursed people.

3.Food insecurities due to poor feedings and diet that can’t be withstand able and satisfactory to the unemployed members.

4.Inappropriate medical facilitation and treatment… There’s only one organization located miles away that address and works on LGBTI people and due to the minority fact the organization always provides little help and unprofessional services. With some HIV+ infected people they face a decrease in their CD4 counts and don’t receive medication in a given time.

5.Unskilled protection officers and police rulings that are of bias to the existence of LGBTI hence affecting the security and creating a miserable gap between the people in offices to address to the insecurities.

6.Social exclusion in a way that LGBTI members as the minority are easily identified and excluded to participate in any social activities with the rest of members within the community even if their of the best skills needed.

7.Poor accommodations and un secure housing that has proved a challenge in ways of sickness, attacks from homophobes and poor sanitation.

8.Physical torture being brought about by the Religious factor in a way that Kakuma camp is mainly populated by Islamic settlers and refugees from Sudan,Somalia and Ethiopians whose religion preaches are un considerable to our stay thus attacking us evenly and restricting our movements.

9.Long awaiting processing by the UNHCR to grant the most vulnerable LGBTI’s refugee status and resettlement priorities so that their liberated from internal persecutions in the camp..

FOR THE ABOVE MENTIONED ISSUES ALL LGBTI REFUGEES ARE ORGANIZING TO MOVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY

Camp conditions are squalid, and uncomfortable.

For more photos, see the full article on the “O-blog-dee” blog.

 

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 info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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