Gay refugees are being attacked in supposed ‘safe havens’ in Kenya.
LGBTI people face threats, violence and exclusion in agencies headed by the United Nations.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has apologized after being accused of ‘neglect, collusion and inaction’.
Richard de Luchi, a human rights defender, is working with LGBTI refugees.
He explains that in places like Uganda, many may make their way to Kenya for hopes of a better life.
But applying for refugee status and resettlement means a long wait, with interviews paced at six monthly periods but frequently delayed.
He said: ‘In Kenya, LGBT+ refugees are subject to the brutality of the state and its agents, as well as by the host community and fellow refugees.
‘Employment is very difficult to find or keep, because of strict labour laws applying to non-Kenyans.
‘No funding comes at present from the UNHCR for LGBT+ refugees.
‘Sex work is often the only means of keeping body and soul together.
‘Women, in particular, are subject to violence; the result of cultural sexism and an inability to understand lesbianism.
‘Health problems, often serious, are the lot of almost every LGBT+ refugee, with minimal care available from hospitals and clinics.
‘The medical profession seems as prejudiced as everyone else.’
Peter Tatchell, veteran human rights campaigner, wrote to the UNHCHR.
‘Since 2017, I have received persistent reports of neglect, indifference and abuse by UNHCR staff and those they employ, including the failure of the UNHCR to protect LGBT+ refugees from abuse and violence by other refugees and the Kenyan police,’ he said.
‘The UNHCR in Kenya has a duty of care towards all refugees, including LGBT+ ones. For at least two years, it has failed that duty of care – and sadly it continues to fail now.’
Tatchell asked the UNHCHR to transfer the refugees to a safe location. He also asked them to facilitate the resettlement of LGBTI refugees to safe countries where they can live their lives without fear.
‘The safety and security of all refugees is of the utmost importance to us,’ a UNHCR spokesperson said in response.
‘Our Nairobi office is working to secure resettlement for as many LGBTI refugees in Kenya as possible. In the last part of 2018, we submitted more than 100 LGBTI cases for resettlement from Nairobi and have submitted approximately 150 further cases for consideration so far this year.
‘However, resettlement is not possible for all who request it. We are actively advocating with resettlement countries to specifically increase the number of LGBTI refugee cases they are willing to receive.’
The UNHCHR added they also remain ‘steadfastly committed’ to ensuring LGBTI refugees are able to live without fear.’