Here is an analogy.... if you are in a snake pit - are you going to jump around and make a lot of noise, or are you going to remain very still until you find your way out?
AHRC fully supports the below statement from UNHCR, and African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) adds an advisory directed at LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma camp. This would be one of many advisories over several years which have gone unheeded by a small portion of LGBTQI+ refugees in the camp, and respected and followed by the major portion of LGBTQI+ refugees in the camp. The problem is when a smaller group fails to follow these advisories and invest in basic common sense self-security, it harms the larger group, by virtue of association and the damage it causes to the entire milieu.
HERE IS UNHCR STATEMENT
UNHCR is aware of a demonstration at a food distribution center in Kakuma refugee camp on 3 February which resulted in injury of one asylum seeker with an LGBTIQ+ profile. This occurred when around 100 refugees and asylum-seekers with LGBTIQ+ profiles arrived early to collect their food rations and were requested to come back at a time that had been allocated for them. At around 12:50 hrs, the group began demonstrating and demanded to be served before others in the queue. Police who were present at the distribution site asked them to disband, and they refused, then the situation escalated. Unfortunately, one individual suffered minor injuries. As a result of the incident, food distribution had to be suspended, causing as many as 1,000 refugees to return home without food.
The injured individual was immediately taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The individual was later released and returned the same day. Despite some misleading information circulating on social media, UNHCR confirms that no one was seriously injured, We also reiterate that all refugees in Kakuma, including those with LGBTIQ+ profiles, have equal access to medical and psychosocial support as a fundamental component of the protection and support provided to refugees in Kenya. There are six hospitals and clinics in Kakuma, where almost 250,000 refugees and asylum-seekers live where they can receive medical care.
UNHCR respects the rights of all refugees to protest peacefully but reiterates that any action must take place within the laws of the hosting country and in respect of other refugees and host communities. Kenya requires those planning to demonstrate to obtain a permit from local authorities in advance.
UNHCR acknowledges the challenges faced by vulnerable refugees in Kakuma, including those with an LGBTIQ+ profile, and has been closely following the situation on the ground.
Along with Kenya’s Department of Refugee Services, local law enforcement authorities and refugee community leaders, UNHCR has put in place mechanisms for peaceful community dialogue, to bring all refugee groups together to openly discuss challenges and seek solutions. We encourage all communities to engage in these peaceful initiatives.
UNHCR remains committed to ensuring the protection of all refugees regardless of their culture, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or any other factor, and to finding durable solutions for them. We stand committed to ensuring that all refugees in Kenya, including those with an LGBTIQ+ profile, are provided with the best possible protection and assistance on a fair and equal basis.
HERE IS AHRC ADVISORY: AHRC fully supports UNHCR's version and explanation of events pertaining to the food collection incident at Kakuma on Feb 03, based on our own investigation. And we have more to add:
Let me first make it clear that the refugees involved in the food ration protest had turned down the opportunity to receive food grants from AHRC, when invited to apply. Had they not turned down the invitation they would have received food a week before this incident. In fact the same group of people called a meeting and informed those at the meeting that they should not apply for or accept food from AHRC because it would disturb the food shortage and hardship narrative that the group is depending upon to raise funds and to request immediate evacuation from the camp, which is impossible under Kenyan law. The leadership of the group also informed hungry refugees that if they applied for our AHRC grant, it would result in them being kept in the camp longer. we have clear evidence of this by way of recordings and written statement. HERE IS THAT ADVISORY: https://www.africanhrc.org/single-post/ahrc-advisory-accepting-food-livelihoods-will-not-cause-you-to-be-stuck-in-kakuma-that-is-a-lie
AHRC believes in the peaceful right to protest. AHRC believes in the right to one's authentic gender identity, sexual orientation and self expression. Yet we understand the danger of being in a camp full of homophobes and in a country where we, LGBTQI+ are considered criminals under that country's law.
When in a host country, seeking protection and possible resettlement, one has to consider one's own safety and abide some basic protocols, at the very least, to ensure survival, especially if one is criminalized, demonized and ostracized in the exact same way as the country one fled . These are protocols that LGBTQI+ refugees in Kakuma camp are very aware of.
However we see some public self-outing in a manner that quite frankly I would not even consider in central San Francisco, least of all central Kakuma!
There is nowhere in this entire world that an LGBTQI+ person is fully safe and we are all charged with having to judge our surroundings and live accordingly. Protest is a right, important and valued. However the result can be undeniable and we all know our own risks, where ever we are. Some of us choose those risks. This is all we have being part of a minority that is globally despised, even here in America.
When viewing the video recordings of the incident described by UNHCR, which were uploaded onto social media by the refugees themselves, and also independent recordings, we noticed that trans refugees were not following suggested self-security protocols. It is a great shame that trans people are not safe to dress authentically in a place like Kakuma. However in a criminalizing environment, there is not safe way to be authentic or self-express unless in the privacy of one's own secured compound. The majority in Kakuma follow such self security protocols.
Unfortunately in an environment where a huge populace of heterosexual refugees in the camp have been taught to hate LGBTQI+ people, and have been subjected for decades to ultra religious propaganda that demonizes LGBTQI+ people, to the point where they truly believe we are satanic and will hurt their children, it is NOT advisable to OUT oneself in public or to continue to protest when asked to disperse. So once again AHRC is calling upon all LGBTQI+ individuals to invest in their self-security and to avoid situations that lead to exposure and predictable violence, which ultimately influences the host Government which would rather NOT have LGBTI+ in their country, to halt the entire resettlement program.
PEASE NOTE this is not victim blaming - this is an extreme environment where people must self-secure and act in the best interests of all fellow refugees, with a focus on the greater goal, durable solutions and resettlement. At the end of the day LGBTQI+ refugees do not have much choice when it comes to fleeing their countries of persecution. So they are compelled to cross borders and enter equally persecutory countries to seek solutions. This entire story is indicative of the fact that we as a global community are failing to come up with the ultimate in solutions whereby LGBTQI+ refugees can have safer paths and open pipelines. 02/10/2023 REMINDERS: Regardless of the attempts to CANCEL the work of AHRC, by those who are opportunistically using refugees for their personal gain in and outside of Kenya, the work of AHRC, which has been for over 15 years, continues to be:
1) To advocate for long term durable solutions for LGBTQI+ refugees - to enhance pipelines and pathways for authentic LGBTQI+ refugees 2) To provide individual ad hoc case advocacy for hundreds of forcibly displaced LGBTQI+ people at all phases of the displacement cycle to include countries - Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea-Conakry, Togo, Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ghana, Namibia
3) To provide resources and referrals for LGBTQI+ people at all phases of the forced displacement cycle
4) Manage and implement food programs in refugee camps for LGBTQI+ refugees
5) To combat homophobia though various channels, including dialogue, media, legal services, Pride participation, and speaking engagements
6) In the United States and Global Courts, to provide country conditions affidavits and testimony as expert witness on behalf of gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, non-binary, queer, intersex, allies, human rights defenders and all perceived as such who are persecuted and forced to flee their countries. To date AHRC's Melanie Nathan has appeared and won over 55 such cases in the U.S. and global courts, winning asylum for LGBTQI+ people from 20 different African countries;
7) To stand for LGBTQI+, immigrant, refugee and asylum seeker rights by forming coalitions with aligned partners and associates;
8) To thwart opportunism, lies and myth, by standing for the truth, and all that fosters the ongoing, albeit very limited platforms currently available to LGBTQI+ people from African countries.
BELOW is a screenshot of a Facebook post that further exposes LGBTI refugees at the incident. There is a video with this post that serves to endorse the UNHCR version of event and the AHRC assertion that people involved did not invest in self-security. The whole incident would have been averted had this group applied for the AHRC food grant. Note AHRC has blocked the face of the refugee that is fully exposed on Facebook.