Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

LGBTI+ Refugees fight for a place in UNHCR database

Posted in Human Rights, Humanitarian Services, Kakuma Town and Kenya, News Updates by KANERE on March 23, 2020

November 7th
By Kalisha Itekewa – KANERE Staff Reporter

On November 29, 2019 a group of LGBTI+ refugees camped in front of the UNHCR staff compound in Kakuma. It was an extension of a November 6th protest that was led by new LBGTI+ arrivals, who have been residing in the reception center for several months. Following three days of demonstrations in front of the UNHCR offices, the group was dispersed by the police as they tried to enter the UNHCR compound by force as they try to push through the gate confronting with the security guards.

The new arrivals have come primarily from Uganda, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia and Yemen to seek asylum from persecution based on their sexual orientations. However, there have been delays in the processing of their documents.

According to one leader, the aim of the protest was to bring attention to delays in the registration of LGBTQ asylum seekers, as well as discrimination against LGBTQI individuals by both refugees and members of the host community.

”We are here to hand over our petition letters to the UNHCR,” he explained to KANERE staff. He counted more than 200 participants at the rally. The petition includes demands for timelier registration of new arrivals and better protection options including resettlement.

LGBTI+ refugee holding their flag at Kakuma 3 near LWF reception center/KANERE

Annoyed protestors expressed frustration toward the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS), the office in charge of registrations and status determination.

One LGBTI+ protestor, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals, explained, “We are here to raise our concerns at the UNHCR office and RAS office. They have failed to register us as asylum seekers.”.

Another elaborated, “We came through Malaba border and we stayed at Kitale. Then with the help of Red Cross, we came to the Kakuma reception center. Imagine, now it has been ten months in this reception waiting for registrations.”

One of the leaders added, “At the beginning of November 2019, the administration of the reception center promised us that we will all have proof of registration or Manifest. But still nothing.”

Protesters alleged that RAS refused to register them as new asylum seekers or to transfer their data from tbhe Nairobi office.

“RAS is saying no more registration of new arrivals of LGBTI+ in Kakuma. Since the beginning of this year, they gave us only movement passes from Nairobi and we still have no document here in Kakuma.” Kiranga, a new arrival from Uganda, told KANERE in an interview on the scene.

In some African countries the punishment for homosexuality is death. The only African country to legalize same-sex marriage is South Africa.
Utarra, who crossed the border in 2018 October, claimed that “Uganda is the worst place for people like him”

As per Section 145 of the Ugandan law: ”Any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.”

One issue is that non-LGBTI+ refugees in Kakuma accuse LGBTI+ refugees of taking a large portion of the increasingly scarce pool of resettlement opportunities.
Even though homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and punishable by up to 14 years, Kakuma has been effective place to seek asylum for many LGBTI+ refugees. However, it seems that the good old days have passed.

Until last year (2018), it was easy for LGBTI refugees to get relatively quick third-country resettlement. “You will not find a gay or lesbian who came here in 2016. All are resettled to Canada. I have been here in Kakuma since 2013 but I have no Mandate even. Also, every December they protest, and then they are resettled,” explained Kasu. He accused UNHCR for falling short in their advocacy for people like him. Despite precarious situations in Kakuma, LGBTI asylum seekers are still arriving in Kenya from different countries and the number is still growing.

People like Kasu also claimed that the LGBTI members are always provoke fights with host and refugees so as to get the attention of media so that they will be heard and engaged. However, the members accused the camp for being homophobic and classist.

Mabzira Mosses founder of Kakuma Refugee Flag, one of the Leader of members of the 2018 Demonstrations/KANERE

Several months ago, Kenya’s high court upheld a law banning gay sex. Moreover, if the new 2019 Refugee Bill is passed in the National Assembly, LGBTI_ refugees will face further difficulties here in Kenya. As per section 29(2) of the new bill, LGBTIQ people can be expelled from the country on the bases of public morality. Rights organizations who participated in public consultations on the new bill claimed that “expulsion or denial of entry of refugees should be aligned with article 33(2) of the UN conventions, so as to ensure expulsion is on a case by case rather than a group expulsion.”

Amnesty International also hints that” the bill includes public morality as a ground for expulsion, which may be conceived to target minority groups such as LGBTI and should be addressed.”

Last year, UNHCR Kenya admitted that the LGBTI refugees would be better protected if they are outside Kakuma. In December 2018, the agency relocated around 200 members of LGBTI to Nairobi after police crackdown on the members of group while holding demonstrations in front of the agency.

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