70th UDHR Anniversary and Deplorable Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Africa

Call Outs on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Horrific Living Conditions – one of many major problems.

SOUTH AFRICA:  On this the day we celebrate the 70th year of the #UDHR South Africa should take a hard look at its deplorable treatment of African asylum seekers and #refugees from Northern countries. People, including mothers with babies on their backs, are whipped by police as they stand for hours, day after day, in the baking sun, waiting to be processed, often weeks go by and nothing happens, except more beatings. LGBTQ people who are persecuted – again suffer the very trauma that led to their exile – as they fear SA security in the line that is supposed to provide sanctuary. South Africa ought to be ashamed. What happened to the dream of #Madiba? Human Rights? Basic Human Rights – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is not way to treat fellow Africans. 

One of the many case examples received by African Human Rights Coalition: 

“The first day went to the home affairs in Pretoria at 6.00 am. I was let in safe and was taking to new comers waiting area were I was there till about 2pm then I was send to a hall. Many of us were there till 4pm.  Then they ask us to go home and come back next week which i did return the next week.  I was taken in for capturing.  After capturing I was send upstairs for interview.

So I went and and whenI enter the officer was eating.  I greeted her but she didn’t answer me rather shouted at me.  Then ask me to come back when she is done.  Then when I went out and was standing there with other nationals then they started sharing their experience.  So many complaining of how there are being molested, abuse and insulted using words like eg you Nigerians you left you country to come and be doing crimes here they would slap and push.

Some at the interview will demand for money before any interview some pay 5000 Rand and some less.

So when she was done and I enter she ask me what national am i. I said Cameroonian.  She ask i speak English coz there is no translator there i told her yes i speak English.  Then a Somalian lady comes in with a guy and tell her that she is there with the money she ask me again to go out let her finish with the guy.

That was about 2pm. So i went out and was just standing in front of her office when another immigration officer came and ask me which agent send me.  I ask him agent of what he then ask me if I dont have money.  I told him that before I was let inside the hall for capturing they collected 4500rand from me on the pretext that is for capturing and interview.

So i dont understand what he is talking about – why she push me out and ask me to go then i went again out and stand till the lady was done with the Somalian.  I went in she just shouted at me and said time is 3.30 pm and she closes at 4pm and she is tired of hearing any lesbian story.  She said we should be ashamed of lesbian.

I stood there she then ask me to sit and start the interview. During this time other officers keep coming in to ask her questions about me in one of the local languages here.  Then an officer came in and talk to her that she do not need to be told that am a lesbian that from my looks one do not need to be told. You can see I am a lesbian they told.

Then she was calm then when she was done an other lady came into her office she rake on her like fire . Then I got something saying they did not believe I am lesbian and I am denied.

Then I went there again to submit my appeal.   I discover that the main entrance was lock so went to the exit gate and saw the security. I ask them that where can I deliver this letter of appeal?  They said i must pay for my entrance which i did that.

That was about 8 am.  When I enter inside I saw people standing under the sun women with babies if one even try to ask for directives from a security is either being push or slap on the face or not even answer you.

So i move from one gate to an other countless time later an officer came and said all those for appeal should make a line which we all did and was under the sun for the whole day. No one came and the line did hardly move an inch. Then we had to go home and come back next week.  Same thing again. Three times. Last time I am threatened to be arrested. Now I am scared to go back.

Thee treatment we as asylum seekers get there is not fair at all we being treated as slaves like non human right up to a security has the right to abuse people coming to seek asylum.  People are being rob there of phones and money.  Nothing is being done there is a lot to write down but the more I talk about at the i picture what is going on there i can call it a business center for south Africans working there.  not a refugee center sorry to say there we have no right something need to be done.”   READ MORE

Melanie Nathan as ED of African HRC notes:

We are calling on the leadership of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and all political representatives to work to fix South Africa’s broken asylum system, to work to end corruption and cruelty and to ensure people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We are also calling on South Africa to take a leadership role on the continent with regard to LGBTQI decriminalization and rights.  It is time for real leadership, to live up to the Constitution and the responsibilities it insists upon.

MALAWI, UGANDA and SENEGAL: In these three countries it is almost impossible for LGBTQI people who are escaping persecution to receive help from UNHCR. The problem is that UNHCR is tied to the host governments which provide refugee status to the exiled person before they are able to proceed along the resettlement process. Or so they say. However advocating to UNHCR on several occasions, African HRC has been successful in getting LGBTQ asylum seekers to resettlement through UNHCR, in these countries. Yet as a general rule, UNHCR is refusing to take on refugees who have not been first approved and accepted as refugees by local host governments. In Senegal the Senegalese government has refused to register gay people as refugees and therefore they have been rejected also by UNHCR unless we provide special advocacy in each instance.  Their refusal is simply that they see gay people as criminals and do not recognize them as a group entitled to refugee status. This is an onerous anomaly: Imagine the only way to sanctuary for those who cannot get VISAS out the continent is to cross a border to another country for recognition as a refugee – and then the very issue one is escaping serves to further persecute!

In Uganda LGBTQ refugees from Rwanda and Burundi are told by UNHCR to go to the local police station first to get refugee recognition by the Ugandan Government. We all know about the looming Kill the Gays Bill and the current harsh Penal Codes which criminalize gays and lesbians in Uganda. Imagine going into a police station where you can be arrested for being gay, to confess that you are gay! Its an outrage.

IN Malawi, the experience is similar.  Though there we have found UNHCR a little more interested in helping than they have been in past years.

It is time for UNHCR to buck up and take responsibility – to find better ways to deal with this for LGBTQI people.

KENYA: Kenya currently has a large Ugandan LGBTQI refugee population in both Kakuma Camp and Nairobi. Here are several Articles which i have written over the past years describing the deplorable conditions and heightened dangers for LGBT refugees in Kenya:

For LGBTI People Kakuma Camp is a Desperate Nightmare

“The conditions are unsanitary, dangerous and attacks as well as the threat of attack by local Turkana people and Sudanese refugees is a constant, as homosexuality continues to be seen as an abomination and a curse on the Camp. The police are ineffective and just like in their home countries, LGBTI people experience extortion and abuse at the hands of police.

The LGBTI community feels let down by UNHCR. Unfortunately UNHCR faces many challenges including the lack of funds, an uphill battle against the homophobia of the host country and heterosexual refugees, and because of their dependency on Governments such as the United States, cannot guarantee resettlement to everyone.

Indeed since the Trump administration took over and reduced its refugee numbers, hindered some travel with Executive Orders and in general created an adverse atmosphere for LGBTQI people, things seem to have worsened.

The wait is excruciating – as one lesbian refugee who made it to Oakland,  California told me: “I lost my soul in Kakuma.”  READ MORE 

Death in UNHCR Kakuma Camp and Conditions Impacting LGBTI Refugees

Refugees are supposed to be protected by UNHCR and the host country. While Kakuma ought to be a safe haven, a variety of venomous spiders, snakes, and scorpions, which together with deadly outbreaks of malaria and cholera/ typhoid have posed grave challenges to the refugees, the host Turkana community and personnel working for the various humanitarian agencies operating in the region. For LGBTI refugees added to the stress engendered by the harsh environment is the anxiety caused by the heterosexual refugee population, who despise their presence, as well as the cruel and harsh treatment of gays by the local Turkana authorities.

At this time many refugees in Kenya are expressing frustration with slow progress and poor communications between refugees and UNHCR. LGBTQI refugees are complaining that it is taking 6 months and sometimes longer between appointments, which are often cancelled and postponed for many more months ahead, with little to no explanation. We continue to receive reports of poor protection for the security of LGBT refugees in the camp, who are subject to the threats of homophobia at the hands of fellow refugees and authorities alike. In the case of LGBTQI people, extreme stress further exacerbates health related issues. READ MORE

UNHCR Chief’s Call for Solidarity with Displaced LGBTI and Refugees is Not enough

Filippo Grandi stresses the need to support those forced to flee because of their sexual orientation and gender identity |  However, the UNHCR office in Uganda has refused to help L:GBTI Refugees! The Chief of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, called for solidarity with LGBTI people who are forced to flee … More

Transgender in Kakuma: We are dying help us!

“We in a miserable situation dying, having nothing to eat and no where to sleep. We are dying help us dear madam.” I am Melanie Nathan and I direct The African Human Rights Coalition. This is what I have to report on this transgender day of visibility: I have been in direct contact with each of … More

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. 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 … More

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

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 … More 

What I have presented here is only a small sampling of the problems in Africa. Other countries are also problematic.

Melanie Nathan as ED of African HRC notes: 

We are calling on UNHCR, African Governments and the global LGBTQI community to act in accordance with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to afford respect and dignity for all people, including asylum seekers, refugees and LGBTQI citizens of every country. We are asking for the decriminalization of people’s human sexuality and gender identity.

READ MORE ABOUT The Universal declaration of Human Rights:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,Now, therefore,
The General Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


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