Support Uganda Program, directed by Tobias Pellicciari, is following Kenyan refugees situation. Long time ago it promoted a support campaign in favor of LGBTI people living in Kenyan camps. Thanks to our association, we are monitoring the condition of Ugandan refugees living in Kenyan camps that the Government is trying to shut.
We are working on this theme just to promote several awareness events to explain, as precisely as possible, the real problems the homosexual people are living in camps. We also remind that LGBTI community is living a lot of oppressions and discriminations into the camps: a huge inconvenience. The current happenings are feeding a very stressful and uneasy condition that adds to a relevant economic difficulty.
In Uganda last years were very hard to LGBTI people. In February 2014 President Yoweri Museveni, approved Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law that condemned homosexual people to life imprisonment because of a series of presumed crimes linked to homosexuality. After this episode, brutalities against homosexual people were growing up, as well as the risks about their safety. Even if in August 2014 they cancelled the law because of some legality problems, the violence against the community didn’t stop and a lot of Ugandan had to move to Kenya in order to live a quiet life. Nowadays Uganda is a dangerous country for homosexual people. There are a lot of threats by politicians and religious leaders, as shown in the attacks against the gay community during the last Gay Pride. Uganda also kept some old laws about sodomy coming from British Colonial Government. These laws caused a lot of pain and social alienation towards LGBTI people, also before Anti-Homosexuality Act approval.
Because of this a lot of people often prefer to reach Kenya, even without money and as illegal immigrants. Some of them had already been victims of violence by their neighbours or refused by their own families.
In this article we are going to clarify the situation of refugees that found a place in Kenyan camps. First of all we must precise that, in Kenya, there are two kind of LGBTI refugees: those who live in the north-west area of Kakuma and the urban ones living in Nairobi.
Both are living in a very awful way, however. In Kakuma camp some homosexual people are aimed by Sudanese and Somali guests because of their sexual orientation. Refugees say UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) doesn’t provide any kind of protection. Into the camps there are regular victims of heavy violence. Also the Police threatens the victims to apply the anti-homosexual Kenyan law against them.
During an abuse episode, some Sudanese stoned an Ugandan refugee: they said homosexual people are unable to live together with other people, so they had to go away. The aggressors went on violently until the LGBTI area, then they attacked them. The guests’ efforts to obtain protection from UNHCR were useless. The Police of Kakuma has been revoked because they hit the victims again and again.
LGBTI refugees left their camp and went to sleep into the UNHCR’s office because they feared to be killed. The following morning they received the order to come back to their own area without any intervention nor protection. They use to suffer this kind of attack.
We must also say that a lot of LGBTI refugees at the beginning worked as farmers, then they obtained a job as teachers in schools. But suddenly, as soon as their homosexuality came out, they lost their job. As they cannot work, they also cannot satisfy their needs. “Needs” means “primary needs”, as medicines, food, clothes, transport to reach UNHCR’s office to get their documents and everything they need for their personal hygiene.
For refugees living in Nairobi, home, food and medicines are the main problem. Some of them are diabetic or HIV patients, so they could get a daily therapy. Some gay people became prostitute in order to survive. Now, in Kenya, there are more than 150 (one hundred fifty) LGBTI people and just someone else in Nairobi’s camp. Someone came to United States but it’s not easy to get settled and a lot of them have to wait for years. Someone else is welcome in Europe (above all in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Denmark, UK, Scotland, Italy, etc.) and others in Rwanda.
Recently, the Government threatened to shut Kenyan camps, so to them there is the real risk to lose their little acquired hopes. They cannot go back to their home country because it is hostile and it will certainly condemn them to new violence. Even if activists made a good work, unfortunately today in Uganda there isn’t an important change about the way of living the homosexuality.
A new project of UN (United Nations), underlined that the situation got worse because of the settlement of local refugees and the request of more than 40,000 Somali citizenship. But we are not sure about it.
Obviously problems are not only about LGBTI people. In August 2016, during a visit in Dadaab, Human Rights Watch reported that the Government of Kenya proposed to Somali refugees 400$ from UN to go back home in a year if they had not been already sent out.
The Director of refugees’ rights at Human Rights Watch, Bill Frelick told that Somali refugees escaped from very difficult situations and Kenyan Government didn’t give them any choice but repatriation. Maybe UNHCR sent false information about security in Somalia.
After these threats some refugees agreed to come back to Somalia but suddenly they had to decide to escape to Kenya because of the experienced violence. Human Rights Watch found out that Somali refugees were not allowed to regularize their selves, so they got illegal.
In order to reduce the number of people living in camps, Kenya is going to verify if refugees living there are really allowed to do it.
On April 30 2016, ONU published the global program for refugees in Kenya and the Government ordered to shut the camps within May 6. Fortunately they shut just one camp but we are very worried about the others.
While the Kenyan Permanent Secretary, Karania Kibichi, was announcing the Dadaab and Kakuma camps closure, he charged United Nations to ignore the refugees destiny and to do not enough for their repatriation. UNHCR replied it is quite difficult to repatriate 10,000 people because money are not enough and they have also to pay the volunteers’ work. UNHCR underlines that a repatriation may be not enough if the migration goes on. At the moment they have got money only for 10,000 guests.
Kenya also charges international community to leave their own duties that is to settle some refugees coming from the continent. This is a very thorny matter and they are trying to find a solution, but institutions are going on declining their responsibilities. In the meanwhile the camps are very badly managed, there are a lot of difficulties to carry on the right activities to allow people to live there.
UNHCR underlined that UK, Netherlands and Sweden got just a few people settled from Kenya, more or less 6,000. Only 500 gays and lesbians are escaped from Uganda persecution. Kenya showed almost no interest also toward the new UN project. During an interview for “The Guardian”, also British Minister of Foreign Affairs said the camps are useless and it is indispensable to shut them as soon as possible.
Behind human tragic stories there are speculations as usual. In June 2015 UNHCR asserted to receive from Turkana county 5.79 square mile (1.500 ettari) to build a new camp for refugees, close to Kalobeyei Township. It seems the Government agreed to UNHCR but it said that Western countries used the field for their own business and they need to suspend county profits on gas and oil.
You can understand how many difficulties Kenyan refugees have, this is why our association International Support would like to develop useful work plans to hold up LGBTI community in Kenya and to provide them a sort of self-sustenance. We don’t know what it would happen if camps shut, but we have to work towards this dramatic hypothesis.
UNHCR officials talked uselessly to a Kenyan refugees leadership. Everything seems to be based on the Kenyan Government negotiations. New guests and people waiting for settlement run the worst risk because of the uncertainties. Ugandan leaving to Kenya may have just few choices.
In the meanwhile LGBTI’s economic exigencies are growing up, but uncertainties too. HIAS is the financing LGBTI refugees association, it allows them to survive into urban areas and it announced to stop its financing from June 2016. This choice has been already made some months ago when some little groups of LGBTI refugees were taken in order to start some little enterprises into urban areas. They hoped to create an independent income for their own survival. However, it’s quite difficult to these enterprises to survive Kenyan Government and Police pressure towards LGBTI community. Obviously refugees are not welcome, so the most important trouble is that the Government doesn’t want UN protection anymore. As we have already underlined, homosexual community is victim of Police attacks, threats and brutality. It’s impossible to say where this situation is going to. In the same time a lot of people left their home because of lack of money.
There is a long work to do in order to start and set up LGBTI community to the change. To do it we need the presence of all ONG and international community too. We also need an efficient fundraiser to prevent the emergency.
Because of this International Support is looking for Partners to strengthen its own work and make known better information and prevention of homosexual people problems in Kenya. We hope to find together the best solution to guarantee to these people a better life condition and a new hope for the future. A lot of them lost everything, they had to leave their own country and their families abandoned them. Our aim is to make them find the right balance waiting for a settlement into another countries.
International Support and Support Uganda Program’s proposal is to create a series of Workshop after meetings in some Europe countries, to touch the LGBTI Kenyan refugees problems and to talk about them together with other partners and find together the way to support a decisive, positive and international action.
If you are interested in our proposal, please contact us:
New ideas for the project are welcome as well as information material and every kind of support for fundraiser.
International LGBTI Support – Human Rights
Translated by Rita Emili (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here you can find the link to make your offer to LGBTI refugees of Kenya and Senegal.