The Ugandan LGBT who fled to Kenya are desperately seeking help from our United States LGBT community. Here is the call.
By Melanie Nathan, June 16, 2014
Most refugees, when finding shelter in UNHCR camps, despite the difficult conditions, can at least find solace in the fact that they have escaped the persecution that sent them there in the first place. But this is not the case for Ugandan LGBT people who are now refugees in Kenya, having escaped state sanctioned homophobic arrests, community threats and attacks in their own country.
There are an estimated 60 members of Uganda’s LGBTI community in refugee camps and hiding out in Kenya right now. They are living in deplorable conditions. Sick, beaten down, fed unsustainable food, and their bleak existence exacerbated not only by a slow resettlement process, but by enduring persecution at the hands of the general camp populace.
Some have been forced into the camps, due to their particular circumstances and inability to survive outside the camps and others continue to struggle in Nairobi’s slums.
It seems that the resettlement process can take up to 2 years.
Given that the LGBT refugees are under attack in the camps by the general refugee populace, and that UNHCR is unable to protect them, it is imperative that they receive special expedited treatment. Their cases must be sent to the top of the list and they must be resettled as a matter of urgency.
I have 20 similar stories in my e-mail box right now.
Here are 2 situations and a letter from a human rights defender, stuck in Kenya trying to help his fellow Ugandans.
They have asked me to publish their stories.
I got exposed. I was almost stoned by residents in my village when they learnt that one of their own sons on the village who was my lover. I had been reported to the police with charges of aggravated homosexuality.
Police camped at my residence for days. I almost got arrested but escaped. Due to fear of arrests, I had no option but to flee Uganda. I also had threats by my landlord.Since, my family denounced me, as they saw me as a disgrace, my close friends too were no longer my friends. I lost my job. My boss told me face to face he could not risk his company being shut down for my behaviour, “the new bill here clearly stipulates punishment to anyone who does not report a gay person to authorities,” he said.
I happened to have reported my problems to our local LGBT Organisation. They gave me a letter I could present at the USA EMBASSY. I was terrified and so fled and came here to Kenya to seek refugee status from the USA embassy.On reaching Kenya, I went to the USA embassy, but we were blocked at the gates by security asking us if we had an appointment which we didn’t.
I asked to see an immigrations officer but they denied me entry and advised us to go to UNHCR as they had never heard of any one seeking refugee status at the USA embassy and off we got a cab which took us to UNHCR ( United Nations Commissioner for Refugees) offices and first step was to register then gave us another appointment for an interview, then another appointment for another interview, until I finally got a mandate. I am currently awaiting resettlement interview and am now in Kakuma camp.
I had been sleeping in lodges costing 1000 Kenya shillings per day which is $12 per day when you convert it. Food for a whole day have been taking one meal in a day which is 300 Kenya shillings per day thats $3.6. When you add 300+1000=1300 Kenya shillings per day which is $15.6 per day is what I was spending personally. It’s really expensive. It would be cheaper if I rented a house but then it is safer when you sleep in a lodge to avoid arrests.
My friends who left the camp were arrested. They were for 2 weeks in a Kenya jail. The police were going from to door to door because there had been a bombing and they were looking for terrorists and so they were looking for any foreigner.
So I met up with another Kuchu and we stayed together. Then we ran out of finances, we went to UNHCR to seek help. We took long asking them for assistance in fear that we would be taken to Kakuma camp, which is very dangerous and gays get beaten there.
I contacted U.S.A., LGBT Asylum Task force. But they told me clearly they cannot help us financially as its illegal according to their organisation. The government does not accept it. But she has always prayed for us, supported us morally and spiritually.
I have contacted organisation like Hamiam and other names I don’t remember but got email addresses from LGBT-FAN groups but haven’t been helped financially by any. Only one helped us from USA with some money for food from Rescue Fund. But now it is no more.
We need some jackets as its a cold season. We are sleeping in bad conditions.
There is also a bad transition camp. Some people go to that one first before interviews.
I want the world to know our pain, and I am scared that UNHCR will not help us when we tell our story. The woman running UNHCR here is trying to help us very much. But it is even hard for her because there is not enough help and no security in the camps.
Last night there was a fight between Somali and one of us. And problem here in the camp is there are no disciplinary measures taken place to punish such a person.
We will die here in the cold with no food. We are sick now.
Even the staff of HIAS, security personals of UNHCR( kenyans), they are so rude to us. And when they know you are Ugandan, they automatically know we are LGBTI. And you will read the negative attitude they will give you.
We are many stuck here in Kakuma camp. Three of our guys are seriously sick but there’s no medicine in the UNHCR hospital. We are almost dying. This is worse- the water is salt, the food is unmilled millet and unmilled maize mixed with beans, this is soon worse. We are not getting medications. We have asthma, and HIV and other sicks.
We are planning to strike because of the situation.
We are sick, we are hungry and security is the big problem living with Sudanese and Somalis. They spit on us. Someone left shit on my bed. They know we are gay. They call us bad names. This is like being in Uganda and worse. We are waiting to die. It not safe.
When they start fighting they fight with knives, panga and harsh things until they shed blood.
(Name withheld) is a trans woman recently she was attacked and almost raped by a group of Sudanese, here in the camp where we were placed by UNHCR to be safe. Someone helped her. Now we are going to strike and we go to UN branch here until they work on us because we are not safe at all.
And here is the voice of a Uganda in Kenya who is willing to be named:
IM KAYIZZI JOSEPH a Ugandan gay activists who escaped from Uganda after several threats and detention of the Ugandan police because of my sexual orientation.
I have been in Kenya since January to date and when i reached here i declared my self as a refugue together with my two coligues i.e. Whom we got arrested together on 12 of November 2013.Following the signing of the anti homosexuality gay bill by the president of Uganda on 24 of Febuary 2014, it created a mass movement of most targeted gays from Uganda who have been threatened to be impresoned and to be attacked by the mob justice in Uganda.
Since we had left Uganda before the signing of the bill a month before, we had already registered as refuguees/Asylum seekers at the UNHCR offices here in NAIROBI.
We received accommodation assistance from an urban refugee assisting organisation called HIAS for three concective months ie from january to march, but due to the increased number of ugandans to Nairobi Kenya, after we were granted refugee mandates, we were told by the UNHCR AND HIAS that they cant continue supportin us in nairobi except to look for our selves in nairobi or to accept to be taken at a deadly camp of Kakuma.
Through financial assistance from MELANIE NATHAN I Managed to look for two houses and I have been akey and an important figure in helping all ugandans new arrivals who flew from Uganda and come to kenya to be helped as refugues here in kenya by recieving them and providing shelter and food before they are being registered by the UNHCR because most of the time registrations as are refuguee also takes some days.
I tried all my possible ways to see how at least i can remain in Nairobi because all my coligues who were taken to kakuma are in difficult situation, they are deprived of shelter, food and medical care and most of them are seriously sick now.
Life is so scaring because right now im having a group of ugandan friends whom are staying with but we have run out of food and money for rent were surviving in Kenyan friends a thing which have put our lives in danger because the places were staying in are not safe and they are under police survillance everyday because of the continued terrorism attacks by the terrorists here in kenya.
Its on this note therefore, im crying for help to get accommodation here in Nairobi as were waiting for resettlement status to be accepted by other countries, i will be very greatiful if my request reaches your kind considerations
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL.”
At all times we must still weigh the considerations of all refugees, and how resentment may build if LGBT refugees receive special treatment. However because of homophobia and the dangers to LGBT people, it is critical that they are separated into a different areas or a separate camp, or that we as a global community provide for them to live outside the camps.
In speaking to the UNHCR, we can provide personal and individual support, though in Kenya there are other threats if living outside the camp, at this time.
We must balance these urgent needs against exacerbating the circumstances that could cause further resentment by the rest of the refugee population.
REFUGEE DAY June 20, 2014.
Yes we are able to support LGBT refugees and make life easier for them as they suffer with not enough food and medicine – like others. If we provide we must be discreet. And it is possible to help improve this nightmare. So as an LGBT community we must come together and provide some financial assistance. If you want to help please contact me.