UNHCR Transfers LGBTI Refugees in Kenya to Unsanitary Crowded Conditions

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: https://oblogdee.blog/2018/12/11/lgbt-refugee-peaceful-protest-turns-violent-at-unhcr-compound-in-kenya/ . Some days later UNHCR issued a statement condemning the attack, noting the following in their statement:

Injured refugee at UNCHR compound : Photo used here only with permission.

UNHCR condemns the violence perpetrated against these refugees and asylum-seekers, and reiterates that every individual has a fundamental human right to seek asylum and enjoy international protection. We welcome the efforts of the Kenyan Police Force in quelling the disturbance, and urge the relevant authorities in Kenya to take all necessary steps to ensure the physical safety of all refugees and asylum-seekers, including LGBT ones henceforth.

UNHCR continues to work with the Refugee Affairs Secretariat of the Government of Kenya to ensure that LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers are safe and protected. The physical safety and security of refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya is the responsibility of the Kenyan authorities. UNHCR calls on Kenyan authorities to take action to prevent future instances of violence from being committed.

Injured refugee at UNCHR compound: Photo used here only with permission.

While UNHCR has undertaken great effort together with the Kenyan Government and partners, the Kakuma context does not provide a safe environment for LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR continues to call on the international community to offer increased places for resettlement, and to accept the urgent and emergency resettlement of LGBTI refugees at highest risk.

UNHCR believes that the LGBTI refugees who were involved in this incident would be better protected outside Kakuma. The necessary measures have been taken to facilitate their removal from Kakuma. Around 21 are currently being moved. The number was decided due to capacity in Nairobi to accommodate on an urgent basis. More refugees will be relocated in the coming weeks.” (Full statement here: https://oblogdee.blog/2018/12/13/unhcr-calls-out-the-violent-kenyan-police-attack-on-lgbt-refugees/)

To UNHCR’s credit, they have now moved over 200 refugees from Kakuma to Nairobi on an emergency basis.

However, at this time UNHCR has only been able to come up with a small compound consisting of 11 rooms in total to house over 200 refugees. The current safe shelter is not designed to accommodate 200 people and has only 5 bathrooms all in an unsanitary state. While we understand that this is all that may be available given the emergency transfer, it is hard to imagine that a better more accommodating  plan cannot be made soon.

If this persists it will be clear that UNHCR in Kenya either lacks the resources or has failed to properly apply such resources to accommodate the LGBTI refugees. This must change. The conditions under which the refugees are living at this time are inhumane and untenable and is a set up for further disaster through health hazard and other problems if allowed to persist.

UNHCR must make special provisions for LGBTI refugees: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex transgender refugees have no choice but to cross borders into countries which are hostile hosts. It is for this reason that UNHCR in Geneva must find more resources and create safe shelter compounds for LGBTI refugees. This should be occurring in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and other countries.

Here is one of the rooms housing over 15 refugees:





African Human Rights Coalition is currently working on a proposal, while establishing partnerships, in an attempt to help improve these conditions. It is not an option for Nairobi based refugees to be expected to live separately on their own in rented premises for many reasons. In the past this had led to further persecution. Kenya is a hostile host for LGBTQ refugees and without UNHCR’s protection LGBTI individuals are subject to the very persecution they suffered in their home countries that led them to seek asylum and refuge options through Kenya.   If forced out onto the Nairobi streets, each refugee is on their own.  Barely able to survive on UNHCR related stipends, they are thus often forced into dangerous sex work. This is not a solution and no refugee should be subjected to such dangers and any circumstances, least of all those who are gay, lesbian or trans.

The Compounds: We have chosen to not publicly show the exterior of the compound to ensure safety for the LGBTQ refugees. We hope other activists and advocates consider the same.

Donations at African HRC to help further our work in this regard at www.africanHRC.org/donate 


Melanie Nathan: My e-mail – commissionermnathan@gmail.com
Support our work at African Human Rights Coalition
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1
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