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

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 refugee camp UNHCR compound, through a peaceful process, they were accused of being provocative and then attacked by Kenyan police. This led to UNHCR issuing a statement condemning the Kenyan police action and admitting to the very insecurities the refugees and advocates, such as ourselves, have been accusing the camp of for several years. This led finally to the transportation of approximately 200 refugees to a transit compound in Nairobi where UNHCR is now charged with their care and protection. However UNHCR seems to want them out. We believe UNHCR has a responsibility to come up with better solutions than what is being currently offered.

The conditions in the Compound are deplorable. That has been reported here: https://oblogdee.blog/2018/12/24/unhcr-transfers-lgbti-refugees-in-kenya-to-unsanitary-crowded-conditions/.

Now refugees are being told by UNHCR  that a deal has been made with the Kenyan government for the refugees to leave the UNHCR compound and live as community among Kenyan society. Although Kenya criminalizes homosexuality and shares a similar homophobic milieu to the ones the refugees have escaped from in their own countries, the Kenyan government, according to what refugees have been told, will “turn a blind eye to the homosexual refugees” as long as they “lay low”.  We do not believe this is a solution at all. LGBTI people should have an unfettered right to live their sexuality openly, equally and in accepting community and UNHCR must work more avidly with global partners to ensure that the refugees find the freedom they seek. They should not send people into a hateful intolerant society. THAT is what the refugees exiled from, at great pain and human expense, in the first place.

This advisory from UNHCR for gays and lesbians to “lay low”  and go into the Kenyan community, must be seen in context:

UNHCR has minimal resources and not enough resettlement positions from abroad available to refugees. Notably since Trump came into the U.S. presidency, calling Africa ‘S-hole’ countries, issuing EO’s with travel bans impacting refugees, and reducing refugee numbers in general, the already limited  flow of LGBT refugees to the United States is almost at a standstill. This is having major human rights ramifications hurting LGBTQI migrants.

African Human Rights Coalition is recommending the following to LGBTI refugees caught up in this “Kakuma 200” situation – who are now at the UNHCR temporary transit compound:

“1) First and foremost consider your safety – and always do your best to protect yourselves, judging for yourself what you believe to be best;

2) We advise that if safe, and only under peaceful and calm conditions, refugees remain in the Compound until UNHCR comes up with a proper solution. We do not believe being sent into community with the condition to “lay low” and 21000 kes is a solution. You need much more reassurances, more clarity and you need it in writing – to each of you individually.

3) We do not believe UNHCR should  be let off the hook-  of their duty to provide you with special protection due to your extreme insecurity and vulnerability as POC.

4) We do not believe that UNHCR should be let off the hook for their responsibility to seek expedited resettlement solutions for all LGBTI refugees, given that no matter what promise the Kenyan government makes, the law still criminalizes LGBT people in Kenya and society is vehemently opposed to homosexuality – placing all who should be under protection in constant danger, even if people “lay low.”

5) Refugees who do think about leaving the Compound need to clarify individually with UNHCR if their case will still be an open mandate and file for possible resettlement – or is UNHCR going to close the file and conclude you as having received asylum in Kenya?   You should each demand in writing that your case will still be continued as open even if you leave Compound. Do not sign away your rights without full knowledge of what you are getting into and what it means.

6) UNHCR is under difficulty because the pipeline for resettlement is slow and at a standstill. However we advocates pledge to work very hard in our own countries to try and get expedited and guaranteed resettlement for LGBT people .This will take time.

7) If you decide to leave the compound, then 21000 KES that are being offered, as you know, will not get very far for the duration of time. You need to be reassured by UNHCR as to how you will survive month to month and you need to ask them to put that in writing to you.

8) The  Agreement they asked you to sign refers to conditions and circumstances they state that you have been told about and you are signing that you understand, yet nowhere do they provide what that understanding is- in writing to you. this leaves room for misinterpretation and uncertainty.

9) UNITY – UNITY – UNITY –  If you are divided you are less powerful in your claims and demands. It is more power if you can stick together.

10) PLEASE you are in some ways in a stronger advocacy position than ever before –  because of the stated admissions made by UNHCR in their statement when they transported you from kakuma.  This was a big admission for them to make. They admitted you were unsafe and needed protection. Now they must properly provide it. Use this admission well. Remain calm and peaceful. Do not create drama or be provocative. You are in a stronger position if you unify and do things in a way that develops strong alliances and partnerships.

11) Many more people and organizations are now coming forward. Lets see if 2019 can improve.

120 The Global LGBTQI community is behind you – you have our support.


Thank you for your courage” Melanie Nathan, ED African HRC.


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BY MELANIE NATHAN, mostly a mom!

My e-mail commissionermnathan@gmail.com
Support our work at African Human Rights Coalition
Check out my shenanigans on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1



3 thoughts on “UNHCR sending Ugandan LGBT Refugees into Homophobic Kenyan Society not an Option

  1. Shame on the United States for abandoning so many refugees abroad and in particular the many LGBT refugees in need of safety.
    The world is so grateful that some individual Americans are doing what they can to help out, but this does not come close to matching the assistance to refugees the US did prior to 2017. Keep up the individual work and please, press your own government for more refugee assistance. Some nations in the West, notably Canada and much of Western Europe are doing more than their fair share these last two years, but cannot match the economic and fiscal power of the United States.
    In Solidarity
    Denis LeBlanc, Ottawa, Canada

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