By AHRC, January 30, 2023.
It has come to our attention at African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) that a group of people claiming to be LGBTQI+ refugees in Block 13, Kakuma Camp have been applying intimidation tactics to LGBTQI+ asylum seekers who reside among community in other Blocks and Zones on the Camp as follows:
When COVID-19 struck and people were restricted in movement, AHRC took immediate action and spearheaded a food program, utilizing different partnerships and funding streams over a two year period, that added to the very low food ration refugees were receiving. These food rations do not last long and are not substantial and so this became a major humanitarian concern. We stepped in and continue to do so. At the time several members of BLOCK 13 physically attacked members of the LGBTI community who agreed to receive the food. These attacks have been documented as the refugees reported the incidents to protection officers and police in the Camp. The threat of such attack continued for all distributions that ensued thereafter and so AHRC was compelled to hire security to oversee the distributions in the camp. We never publicized these attacks because LGBTI people are so badly demonized in African countries that we did not want to expose this poor behavior on the part of people who may well, themselves be gay or maybe not. It was complex. When the funding ran out, we stopped mass distributing food for several months, until this past December when a funder came through with a generous donation earmarked for Kakuma food ration supplementation. AHRC put a call out inviting ALL LGBTQI+ in the camp to apply for food grants which we noted would be distributed over a several month period. The manner of distribution was revamped to accommodate the security issues we had previously faced. The response was fantastic. We had applications from 44 leaders in the camp all requesting food grants for anything from 2 to 45 in a group and these applications included approximately 90 children. The first distribution in January went really well. Soon after we received two late applications that had missed the deadline. These had come from people who said they had been a part of BLOCK 13 or had been to a meeting called by BLOCK 13 when they heard about our new food grant process. They were told not to apply for the food and had regretted their decision to acquiesce to what they described as threats and intimidation. We have this in writing – for the first time we have written proof and some recordings showing the tactics used to suppress the receipt of food. In these communications we are told that BLOCK 13 leaders, who were named, called a meeting and told people that if they applied for food and livelihood projects, they would be stuck in Kakuma forever and never be resettled.
This is the false narrative they are still spreading. It is an out and out lie. It is a lie. It is simply not true. This fabrication is serving notable opportunism on the part of a few, who are intercepting newcomers and ensuring that they believe the lie. Receiving food and working in the camp in a livelihood cannot and will never impact a refugee's trajectory by keeping them stuck in the camp. That is patently false ..
In order to be resettled criteria must be met and this can take many years. People are subject to strict and lengthy vetting processes and also there needs to be enough room in a pipeline – third country availability – as a pathway. There are one hundred million people in forced displacement at this time in the world and not everyone is guaranteed resettlement. Many people have spent years and years in the camp - and it has zero to do with receiving food and taking on work to sustain oneself.
Why would a group purporting to be LGBTI want to deny food to those who are fellow LGBTI?
AHRC giving food decries the narrative that BLOCK 13 has been putting out for the past two years. Despite Kenya’s encampment laws, Block 13 is attempting to trigger an immediate evacuation from the camp, which is impossible to accomplish. They have tried the same tactics for three years and got nowhere, except hurting the resettlement climate for ALL LGBTI refugees in Kenya. The reality of all this will be the subject of another advisory which we may post in the future.
The purpose of THIS ADVISORY is simply to inform all LGBTI refugees in KAKUMA camp that accepting food and participating in self sustenance though livelihoods is NOT a prescription for being stuck in the camp, but rather a prescription for making a very difficult environment more comfortable for the time that refugees are compelled by law to be in the camp.
As for those who succumbed to the BLOCK 13 lies, it is too late for new applicants to apply for our food grants. Nonetheless, AHRC has added those who came forward from BLOCK 13 asserting the problem, the threats and their desire to be included.
If anyone else regrets their decision, there is nothing we can do in this late stage to include more people as the formula for grants has been divided according to the applicants. However if BLOCK 13 would like to apply for a food grant, in unison, we can seek further funding for the second round of grant call, to commence in May, 2023.
Block 13 has also been a hotbed for opportunism for those purporting to be refugees who actually are not refugees - because they come and go. One is NOT a refugee under the definition of refugee if one is able to come and go from one’s home country – back and forth- showing up at the camp, thinking that no one knows they have been lying about their status. These are the people telling other genuine LGBTI refugees NOT to accept food. Several have continued to return home and treat Kakuma as if it is an interim stopping place to claim hardship and raise money through go-fund me, soliciting western well-wishers with lies and at the same time hurting the trajectory for those real refugees who dare not go home as they were genuinely persecuted and subjected to horrific violence.
All said and done Kakuma is not a place of comfort. It is indeed a harsh and dangerous place for all. BUT it is the ONLY place in East Africa that platforms a possible future resettlement. It is for this reason that AHRC is doing everything in its power to advocate for safe and swift routes out of Kenya, that comply with law, for those genuinely in need of resettlement. It is for this reason that we provide food - to help people survive the awful shortages in the camp. It is for this reason that we advise all LGBTI in the camp to invest in their own self-security, which includes food security, livelihood opportunities and doing all possible to keep safe. We will continue to do our best to partner with these endeavors and we will never cave to threats and frauds and opportunists. So our message to the 44 leaders who applied for food on behalf of their groups: We appreciate your courage, strength and sincere leadership where you genuinely care about your fellow refugee. Well done to you all for participating in what turned out to be an incredibly successful first round. without your leadership over 400 LGBTI and their kids would be hungry tonight!