In December last year, after an attack on LGBTQI refugee in Kakuma, UNHCR helped relocate over 100 individuals to an emergency shelter which has since been ordered closed by the Kenyan Government. The refugees were advised at the outset that this was a temporary situation. This Safe House is no longer a safe house and this is a very serious plea:
The remaining 17 refugees have been advised on several occasions by UNHCR about the closure order by the Kenyan authorities and that it forbids UNHCR and others from providing any further assistance at the shelter. Nevertheless, the group continues to have access to medical care, electricity, water and bedding, and are at liberty to leave and enter the compound as they wish to obtain food and any other essential items. The deadline for vacating the House is June 01, 2019 and UNHCR and several of us have implored upon the refugees to adhere to the orders.
Financial assistance, coupled with specific options for relocation, have been offered to each individual. However the remaining 17 have expressed fear for their safety if they are to leave the shelter, and so up to this point are reluctant to accept the offers of assistance to move. We believe that by refusing the order, the likelihood of danger is far worse in the short term, and thus it is advisable to accept UNHCR ’s relocation plan, albeit inadequate for the long term. The long-term solutions will involve ongoing work by all involved.
The situation against LGBTQI people in Kenya and especially refugees is indeed volatile, yet many are managing to survive while keeping very low profiles. This is an awful way to have to live, especially with survival stipends unreliable and insufficient. However at this time the options remain few for refugees and their courageous fight for survival continues.
What we at African HRC are very clear about is that by refusing to leave the shelter under order of the Kenyan Government, a hostile host country, the remaining refugees are setting themselves up for forcible removal, which will have dire consequences and so this post includes our plea for the final 17 to adhere to the current orders.
While they have not accepted the offers of assistance as of yet, it continues to remain available to them and UNHCR has noted that it will persist in reaching out to the group to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the situation: African Human Rights Coalition is hereby also expressing concern and suggesting that the remaining 17 refugees in the House work with UNHCR, accept their offer of short-term funding and relocation guidance to vacate the premises peacefully by June 01, 2019 and thus to fully comply with the Kenyan Government eviction order. Failure to vacate by the refugees, we are advised, will undoubtedly result in forcible removal, with arrests and hight probability of serious injury to refugees. The precedent has already been set by a spate of violent arrests resulting in injuries and charges that have been made against a large number of LGBT refugees in the past weeks. The threat of this danger is real.
It is important for refugees to note that UNHCR is not in control of the Kenyan Government and is limited in its response in terms of advocacy and funding. UNHCR has expressed deep concern for refugees who are refusing to move. There is nothing to be gained by defying the orders. We agree that conditions in Nairobi and Kenya are unsafe for LGBTQI refugees, all exacerbated by the current, albeit flawed, ruling of the Kenyan Court, where in effect the Court refused to decriminalize homosexuality. This has already brooch unwanted attention and backlash against LGBTQI individuals. The anti-LGBTQI situation could escalate to bring even greater danger with any negative attention and press that will ensue if the refugees are forcibly removed. This will impact more than just those in the House and it will heighten the danger for ALL LGBTQI in Kenya and make a bad situation even worse. That is why we are requesting the current order be followed, in concert with UNHCR's offers of assistance. We are also urging all LGBTQI in Kenya , whether refugees or not to remain calm, and not to act in any way that could make this situation worse. we are urging patience and understanding for the 17 in the House, and possible collaboration to ease the decision making process.
In taking full note of the situation, we believe that the refugees who are yet to leave the House are placing themselves and also all LGBTQI refugees and individuals in Kenya in greater danger. We believe it is best at this time to work with UNHCR and accept their offers and that any refusal to adhere to the Kenyan host country orders could prove to be very dangerous. So all we can do as advocates at this time is hope that those in the House will work with UNHCR toward a peaceful and expedited resolution. There is no other choice. The dire and urgent long-term situation is what we should all be working on together with UNHCR, third party organizations, funders and refugees at this time.
So reiterating: While we know ongoing safety and ongoing financing is a critical problem, we do believe this order must be adhered to, and that all advocates and third-party organizations can be of help by continuing to co-create with refugees and each other for further short and long-term solutions. Please be aware that we are doing all possible at African HRC to pursue collaborative durable solutions. We wish all refugees caught up in this inexcusable homophobic persecution strength and well-being during this very difficult time and hope that wise leadership will lead to the safest possible decisions, notwithstanding the very limited options at this time.
Melanie Nathan, nathan@AfricanHRC.org