Transgender Refugees under UNHCR Protection Attacked at Kenyan Camp, One in Coma

“This kind of life has had many people dead inside, alive only on the outside.” A lesbian refugee who was resettled in the U.S.A. earlier in the year.

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Copyright, 2018 Refugees c/o AHRC.

A group of Transgender people from Uganda’s LGBTI refugee community in Kakuma Camp, Kenya, have been reliving the horror that they thought they had escaped when leaving the violence perpetrated on them in their home countries. Instead of the bounds of UNHCR and their host country providing safe haven and protection, a preventable attack leaves the seven refugees seriously injured, including one in a coma.

The 7 transgender refugees and a group of 3 gay men had spent a month in mud, rain, and flood, with barely anything to eat or drink, outside of the larger LGBTI community in the camp, in protest at UNHCR compound, hoping to convince UNHCR to improve the squalid and unsafe conditions in the camp, while asserting their vulnerability on behalf of the LGBTI camp communities.

Several months back the refugees were promised improved conditions, but nothing has happened since, instead things became worse, with the refugees reporting:

  • The food ration lasts only one week of the month;
  • The heterosexual refugee population attacks the LGBT refugees as they leave to collect their food, and sometimes by encroaching into the LGBT community area;
  • Constant attacks by the local Turkana, who clearly receive impunity from the Kenyan government;
  • The Kenyan police, agents of this hostile host country, habitually harass and beat the refugees;
  • There is little safety from scorpions and snakes; and
  • The bathroom conditions are unsanitary.

While protesting the groups had been ignored by UNHCR staff, who threatened to call the Kenyan police on them if they did not return into the camp. The refugees remained steadfast in their protest, moving the camp during a flood to another side of the building, but unfortunately on Wednesday were attacked by the Turkana local inhabitants wielding weapons.

In my capacity as Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition I wrote earlier in the week to UNHCR, asking for security solutions and reached out in an effort to assist in the negotiation of the stand off with the 7 protesters, but to date we have received no response.  The day after our communication was sent, the refugees became the subject of this horrendous physical attack, as reflected in the pictures and described below:

The refugees sent me this note describing the incident as follows:

Hello Dear madam,

Hope you doing  alright today, yesterday which was March, 29, 2018 the group of inhabitant people known as turukana attacked us with equipped weapons in front of the UNHCR KAKUMA Kenya compound  and almost we all transgender we were harmed and we seriously got wounds . We jumped the gate of the UNHCR KAKUMA Kenya to save our life because they had refused to come out help us.  What they did is to call the ambulance to take us in the hospital for treatment and when we arrived the hospital they only covered the wounds and then chased us outside and we slept outside the hospital and today morning we have been able to come back at the UNHCR group where we are camping for now it’s one month and one week no action been done on our cases
But dear sister we are really dying where we are.  Plus no food and the wounds we having . Help us dear sister
Yours transgenders
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Copyright, 2018.  7 LGBT Transgender refugees Kakuma c/o African Human Rights Coalition, © Published here wit permission. These pictures  can only be republished with written permission from

Today we have received updated information that one of the refugees is in a coma and another has been transferred to Nairobi due to the loss of his eye.

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Here is a photo of the refugee in a coma, (we are withholding his name). His UNHCR paper doc can be seen at the top left. This Photograph is copyright proper of refugees c/o AHRC and can only be reproduced with permission.

This is not the first time LGBTI refugees have been badly beaten by Turkana in the camp.

Unlike other refugees, LGBTI refugees have no safety net, not even as refugees. LGBTI refugees from any of the 32 African countries which criminalize homosexuality do not get to leave their persecution behind in their home countries after they cross the border into a host country, which together with UNHCR, under International Law, is obligated to provide safety and protection. Instead LGBTI refugees on the continent find they have landed in a hostile host country, which continues to criminalize their sexuality, thus providing tacit approval and license for so called ‘vigilante justice.’

Currently there are 164 LGBTI refugees in Kakuma Camp, most of whom have been there over 4 years.

LGBTI Refugees camping outside the Compound in protest of conditions, despite severe storm and floods:
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Copyright, 2018.  7 LGBT Transgender refugees Kakuma c/o African Human Rights Coalition, © Published here wit permission. These pictures  can only be republished with written permission from


African HRC is calling on UNHCR to immediately ensure the protection of all LGBTI refugees, through securing a separate safe compound site with adequate security protection:

UNHCR is encouraged to continue to advocate to the Kenyan government to ensure that the harassment of LGBTI refugees by Kenyan police and Turkana cease. To that end we also implore on the Kenyan Government to ensure that their police officers respect the fact that under International Law LGBTI refugees are entitled to feel safe and secure and that as a host country the Kenyan police are charged with their protection, not their harassment.

We request that while police investigate the horrific brutality that brings the perpetrators to justice, UNHCR provide witness protection and extra protection that all LGBTI will now require as a result of any possible vengeance attacks by those who believe they were of right to attack LGBT refugees.

We are also asking that UNHCR maintain regular and consistent update contact with the refugees, to inform them of their status in relation to their resettlement process, and that appointments are judiciously expedited.

Any organizations or journalists who would like further information – please contact  Melanie Nathan at –
Subject : 7 Attacked at Kakuma

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By Melanie Nathan





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7 thoughts on “Transgender Refugees under UNHCR Protection Attacked at Kenyan Camp, One in Coma

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