The Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA), a strong body of refugees representing LGBTQI refuges in Kenya, is proving how dialogue and compromise can lead to solutions, through a series of meetings in Kenya. These meetings are undoubtedly serving the best interests of the tenuous LGBTQI refugee program's ability to survive its stress and tests in the harsh climate of Kenya as a hostile host to LGBTQI refugees. This week the coalition of Community Based Organizations (CBO's) got together in roundtable with UNHCR and partners at Kawangware and Rongai, for the first in a series of ongoing discussions, to try and work out solutions for the impending end to HIAS stipends for many of the LGBTQI refugees, who have been receiving survival financial assistance for some time. The stipends are at this time being subject to individual assessments and many will be caught up in the termination of their financial aid.
This feeds into two possible solutions:
2) Joining and working closely with a Nairobi CBO where all monies are pooled and livelihood programs are either operational or developing, with short and long term survival at the foremost of decision making. To this end, refugees ought to be mandated or permitted to be in Nairobi.
1) Adhering to the Kenyan encampment policy: If a refugee does not have requisite paperwork to be in Nairobi, such can lead to arrests, and those people should transfer to Kakuma to adhere to the Kenyan law. Any refugee who cannot survive without aid in Nairobi has the option to go to Kakuma camp. Most refugees are expected to be in Kakuma due to the Kenyan encampment policy, which means few refugees only are mandated to be in Nairobi. Those who are not mandated for Nairobi or anyone wishing to transfer due to lack of support through not receiving aid, can be transported to Kakuma where shelter and food is provided. While food rations are not enough in Kakuma, at least people aren't left on street to fend for themselves. AHRC and other organizations are providing and/or working on mechanisms in Kakuma to add to these rations, for the short and long term.
Below is a notice as put forth by RefCEA describing the meeting:
LGBTIQQ ++ Refugees had a Meeting with UNHCR and it's Partners on 12th March 2020 and the theme was to collect information and how they can intervene in the community Based Organizations' livelihoods and the following was discussed :
1. Enrollment for LGBTIQ++ refugee individuals to apply for NHIF cards.
2. Financial assistance will be ending in March 2020. However, there will be assessments for the individuals who have been cut off financial assistance soon and how they would support them through their Livelihood programs.
3. Assistance in registration of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) so as to be legally accepted for their operations in the host community.
4. How to have an organized structure as CBOs to help them their capacity.
5. We were advised that Involvement in Livelihood programs won't stop anyone from getting any assistance.
6. They emphasized everyone to keep safe.
7. They promised to visit each CBO so that they get to know what they do in order to support them to strengthen their capabilities.
We ensure our relationship as LGBTIQ ++ Refugee stakeholders with UNHCR and partners.
The strength of this leadership is in the fact that all these various CBO's and leaders are working close together for solutions, and they are working in partnership with UNHCR, instead of antagonistically. No one is claiming ownership of this community drive, and unity is prevalent in this earnest attempt to find solutions. African Human Rights Coalition stands fully supportive behind these measure. While we are aware solutions are not easy and funding always remains short, we believe that the hardworking to achieve a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to issues, will allow for partnered tenable solutions.
In speaking to one of the leaders involved in the RefCEA roundtable:
"Our community values having a good working relationship with UNHCR and its partners. All CBO's have some sort of livelihood activity. All we need is UNHCR and partners to provide us with grants, not handouts, until we are able to become self reliant, which is our goal. HIAS is still providing stipends to the most vulnerable among us and so we advise people of concern to go to regional HIAS office and receive their assessment."
The leader described the meeting as "fruitful" and said any refugee could attend HIAS for an individual assessment as to needs. We are informed that the meeting included a discussion about COVID-19 and refugee protection, given that Kenya has now had its first case of the Corona Virus. African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) believes that now is a critical time for refugees to remain connected, unified and one voice.
There are 2 more meetings slated for next week to include Kasarani and Kayla areas. We urge refugees to participate to the best of their ability, and remotely if such is deemed necessary.
African HRC is committed to working with UNHCR and partners, advocating for refugees for solutions, and we will continue to advocate for special considerations given this especially very difficult time. We urge unity with RefCEA and UNHCR as they are working productively to ensure the program for LGBTQI refugees is able to continue and is sustained.
Here are the names of CBO's participating in this initiative:
Refugee Trans Initiative
Refugee Action Initiative
PUK (Pride Umbrella Kenya)
LUNKO Arts Garage
There is a group of refugees refusing to join in the dialogue and are choosing to demonstrate instead, without attending discussion roundtables. Handing over demands to UNHCR for what has already been brought to the roundtable and is the current subject of negotiation, seems like a redundant use of resources, especially when refugees have used money raised for banners to "demonstrate" instead. These individuals may try and claim ownership to the remedies that are ultimately reached, as some attempt to usurp leadership roles outside of the coalition, purporting to act in the best interests of community, but rather behaving to jeopardize the entire refugee program for all. Such claims of power and ownership of outcomes, would do a great injustice to the hard work by the Coalition and its leadership, who should be credited with any and all positive results that come out of their hard work. All impacted are invited and are encouraged to join in on these pertinent discussions.
AHRC encourages all to stand unified in these discussions. No one is excluded and all are invited.
Contact the Coalition for upcoming meetings: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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