UNHCR deplores tensed situation in Kakuma, renews call for dialogue and peaceful solutions

Statement from UNHCR: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed today its concerns about the increasingly tensed situation involving a group of some 20 refugees who self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI) in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

In total, there are nearly 300 LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers currently living in Kakuma, and in total some 1,000 across Kenya, which remains the only country in the region to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

While the vast majority live in relative safety, this small group of individuals has been reporting security incidents and asking to be urgently resettled.

To help mitigate the situation, police patrols have increased in the area of the camp where the group resides, and services, including medical, legal and psycho-social assistance, have been reinforced. Each security incident that is reported to us is thoroughly assessed and immediately addressed.

An initiative has also been launched by UNHCR to bring representatives from the various communities living in and around this area together to discuss ways in which tensions could be reduced and security improved. We regret that, so far, the above-mentioned group of LGBTI refugees has refused to be part of this dialogue and we encourage them to reconsider their position.

“We understand the challenges this small group faces, as well as their desire to start a new life in a third country. We also know that there are some very vulnerable people among LGBTI refugees and have spared no efforts to help. Our top priority is always to identify these individuals and families and work with them and our partners to find practical ways to address their problems,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR Representative of Kenya.

“Although UNHCR is fully committed to finding solutions for all refugees in Kenya, it also faces some limitations. We have been transparent about this. We are doing everything we can in a very difficult situation and will continue advocating for more resources and resettlement places for refugees who need it,” said Abdalla.

“To maintain the integrity of our resettlement programme, we continue to give priority to those who need protection most. This includes survivors of torture or sexual and gender-based violence and unaccompanied minors who all deserve our urgent attention. LGBTI refugees have also been able to benefit from this vital programme,” she added. Since 2019 alone, a total of 235 LGBTI refugees have been submitted for resettlement out of Kenya, of whom 48 per cent have departed.

Some 1.4 million refugees globally are in need of resettlement, greatly exceeding the number of spaces available across the world. In 2019, 107,800 refugees were resettled, of whom nearly 60 per cent were assisted by UNHCR. This year only 57,600 resettlement places have been made available by states to UNHCR. We welcome and encourage initiatives from civil society groups based outside of Kenya, including private sponsorship programmes.

UNHCR remains committed to working towards ensuring the protection of and finding durable solutions for all refugees regardless of their culture, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, and does not tolerate discrimination or any form of violence against refugees, including acts perpetrated by other refugees. We are concerned at recent reports indicating that a growing number of refugees in Kakuma camp, including some who identify as LGBTI, fear speaking out and engaging with us due to pressures from some individuals within this small LGBTI group.

“We renew our call for dialogue and solution, in the interest of all refugees in the camp,” said the UNHCR official.

There are nearly 500,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya, including 196,000 in Kakuma.

© 2015 African Human Rights Coalition

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