LGBT Refugee Peaceful Protest Turns Violent at UNHCR Compound in Kenya

Kenya is a hostile host to LGBTI refugees:– Thirty LGBTI Refugees in Kakuma Camp, Kenya, mostly Ugandans participating in an approved peaceful demonstration, tried to deliver a document to UNHCR, but after being refused entry into the compound were viciously attacked by police.  I have reached out to UNHCR for comment and will update accordingly.

The conditions for LGBTI refugees in the Kakuma Camp Kenya are deplorable and have become virtually unlivable. There have been constant complaints of extreme hardship and reflecting insecurities, flowing from threats to the physical safety of refugees, even while under UNHCR protection.  Through my work at African Human Rights Coalition, I have been a witness to a situation that has become increasingly dire, with frustrations building and hope for safety and resettlement dwindling by many who have been there for several years.  As in the past these circumstances can boil over. The resulting protest was intended to convey a series of complaints to UNHCR with requests for improvement to process, general wellbeing and security.

Today 30 refugees, bearing rainbow flags and paper signs, with permission to hold a peaceful protest, were attacked at the UNHCR compound, and all apparently injured. They had written a petition to be delivered to the UNHCR Camp Kakuma headquarters. They held their signs, ate cookies and drank sodas before trying to deliver their petition.

While we still wait to hear UNHCR’s version of what occurred, I am providing a direct account from a refugee who was present, without edit except for redaction/ correction / explanation in red and some punctuation for run on sentences:

“Early in the morning the minority gathered at the UNHCR to submit their petition at 7:00am, we went matching [marching] peacefully to the office and th FCCe.  UNHCR guards refused us by pushing and threatening me and XXXXXXXX who had led the ground.  We went back to where the guards had told us to stay and we told the guards that with in one hour we will come back if they don’t come to pick our document.

An hour elapsed.  We returned there.  This time they brought Kenya police.  A man with a gun AK47 said I will kill you. Now this word made the minority replying to the 8 men with guns saying kill us we even tired of this land.  Immediately the police gathered natives.

The natives started to break stick and gather stones because the LGBTIQ saying yi ni Kenya si Ugandan, 20 after they got organised, rain like stones started to pound on everybody’s head which made every one to scatter and run to save life and the only shield we had was to get into the UNHCR COMPOUND for protection and of which even the UNHCR guards were pushing people back to be killed but forcefully we managed to get in but the masses of people with barbed wire big sticks with thorns shout give them to us we kill those omens.

We sat down in the UNHCR COMPOUND to rest. One police man came and asked us to leave and get out back to the mass that was killing us of which we refused, he turned around and he made a call with 5minutes the Kenyan police arrived in the UNHCR COMPOUND with to police patrol, they told the beaten gays and transgender that get out.  we said they are going to kill us,. they made a circle around them, and they started beating every body with hand bar, wooden huge sticks, barbed wire and metallic poles plus pulling the guys penis and bolls saying we have a lot of pussy here why to you go for men.

A transgender was Pierce a wood in the ass and pierced her still in the leg.  boys screamed like they lost their moms antill all could not walk no more and even went voiceless. all this went on went when the UNHCR officials were watching. what they helped to tell the police to drop us to the hospital. Our phone were taken. while we were in the patrol.  when we reached to hospital still no proper medication was done, we just carried our selves slowly up to the place we stay and people are in critical condition and they still need medication and food.”

A second refugees confirmed:

We were beaten inside the UNHCR compound in presence of the UNHCR protection team:

All the phones of refugees were confiscated. Phones are lifelines and hold the small amounts of money these refugees need to sustain their rationed food. This had added to the distress and insecurity.

There have been 6 seperate attacks on LGBTI refugees in the past few weeks.  The most recent the night before the peaceful demonstration.  All required expensive medical treatment.  Most attacks went unrecorded because the victims couldn’t pay the bribe the police wanted to record it.  Anti-LGBT Sudanese continue to threaten LGBT Ugandans. The so called  “protection zone” is anything but safe – but rather a small compound surrounded by a make shift fence which is merely bush and bramble.  Previously the fence was torn down between one “protection zone” and their homophobic Sudanese neighbors and a lesbian’s sleeping hut was set on fire, destroyed in broad daylight. Requests for assistance or help from UNHCR, Kakuma, according the refugees have been ignored.  Private funds solicited from LGBT donors in Japan and USA help pay to reconstruct the fences, to provide transport, extra food and transport to medical facilities.

UNHCR is not doing its job of providing safety and protection, according to the community. The refugees feel unsafe and as threatened as the day they escaped persecution in their home country. It is clear the police are unable to hear complaints by the LGBT community. Instead they are participating in homophobic brutality and when gays, lesbians and transgender refugees are victims of crimes they are treating them as the criminal. This is the precise experience LGBTQI people have had in the countries they are escaping. Kenya is proving to be a hostile host:

Unlike other refugees, LGBTI individuals in Africa 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.’

UNHCR must launch an investigation and also a safe shelter plan for LGBTQ REFUGEES – so that they can have safety while seeking respite from the constant barrage and threat of attacks.

We will update as we hear more.


Earlier Reports of hardship in Camp can be read here:

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.

UPDATED: Weds Dec2, 2018:

Refugee leadership at Kakuma are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the following fellow refugees, who they say they have been unable to trace since the attack. There whereabouts are unknown and they are asking UNHCR for advisory and to ensure they receive transfers to properly a equipped hospital in Nairobi :They are William Sempijja who was badly injured in the chest ,  Shadia Naiga, NatukundA Joanah, and Mukosa john Baptister. The LGBTIQ community has been looking for these people and they have not been able to find them. If anyone can provide further information please contact 

UPDATED: All Kakuma LGBTI Refugees from Uganda have been moved to transit center in Nairobi:

UNHCR Calls out the Violent Kenyan Police Attack on LGBT Refugees

Posted on December 13, 2018 by Melanie Nathan

African HRC and other advocates have been requesting UNHCR plan for the safe protection and humane living conditions for LGBTQ refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp for several years, with only slight ad hoc and ultimately ineffective results. The harsh conditions and insecurities led to a protest this week and an attack by Kenyan police on … More UNHCR Calls out the Violent Kenyan Police Attack on LGBT Refugees

UNHCR Transfers LGBTI Refugees in Kenya to Unsanitary Crowded Conditions

Posted on December 24, 2018 by Melanie Nathan

On 11th December thirty LGBTQ refugees were attacked and beaten by Kenyan police while protesting discrimination and the harsh unsafe conditions at Kakuma refugee camp.  We reported that attack in the words of the refugees at: . Some days later UNHCR issued a statement condemning the attack, noting the following in their statement: UNHCR condemns … More UNHCR Transfers LGBTI Refugees in Kenya to Unsanitary Crowded Conditions

UNHCR sending Ugandan LGBT Refugees into Homophobic Kenyan Society not an Option

Posted on January 1, 2019 by Melanie Nathan

Asking gays and lesbians to lay low while Kenyan Government turns a blind eye to their homosexuality – is NOT a solution!  America needs to wake up to the need to open the pipeline for LGBT refugees from Africa and criminalizing countries.. When the Kakuma LGBTQI refugees protested harsh conditions and the failed security at the … More UNHCR sending Ugandan LGBT Refugees into Homophobic Kenyan Society not an Option

By Melanie Nathan

@UN.Geneva #KAKUMA #Refugees

Melanie Nathan: My e-mail –
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16 thoughts on “LGBT Refugee Peaceful Protest Turns Violent at UNHCR Compound in Kenya

  1. Us lgbtiq’s who are in Kenya have really experienced hell on earth already but what pains me most is that people whom we are supposed to tell our problems are the ones who orders our torture. Some times i feel like taking my own life but again i have some innocent life that I’ve got to take care of. So please I call upon everyone who can help in this situation to respond postively!

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