Posted on May 10, 2016
The Government of Kenya has announced that it intends to close all refugee camps in the country, and while UNHCR implores Kenya to reverse this decision, we await information as to how they plan to deal with what could be a severe crisis. LGBT refugees, after seeing the headlines, are now extremely stressed and uncertain as to how their cases will continue in the UNHCR system and are worried about their ability to survive, financially, as a prime funding organization withdraws its stipends.
The refugees who have escaped anti-homosexuality laws and persecution in several African countries are still unsure of how UNHCR will handle these cases. Most of the LGBT refugees are not in the camps and are living in urban areas, such as Nairobi. However there are some living in Kakuma camp at this time. It has been taking approximately two years for a legitimate LGBT refugee to be resettled abroad. To date scores have been resettled in countries such as Europe, Canada, USA and Iceland. Survival in Kenya pending resettlement has been extremely challenging. HIAS has provided stipends to help urban refugees survive. However several months ago refugees were warned that the stipends would end in June, 2016. Now this news has added to the uncertainty and stress.
In the meantime the funding needs for LGBT refugees are even greater since we first put up this plea. We now prepare for the unknown. Since HIAS, the organization that has been providing stipends to LGBT refugees to survive in urban areas announced it will stop funding as of June, 2016, a decision that was made many months ago, groups of LGBT refugees have been forming to create small businesses in the urban areas in the hope of generating income for survival. However given this news of closure, it is highly unlikely that these micro businesses will survive the likely clamp down on urban refugees by Kenyan police. It is clear that all refugees are not welcome in Kenya and the worry is that the Kenyan government will not honor the UN protection of refugees. Already LGBTI refugees have been the target of police harassment and brutality. There is no knowing where this will lead. We as an international LGBTI community need to start preparing, through critical fundraising, so we are ready to help LGBTI refugees, when this emergency heightens.
As Executive Director of the African Human Rights Coalition, I am pleading to our community to take note and to consider much needed donations, in whatever amount, so we are ready to shelter and feed LGBT refugees, beyond their current urgent needs:
I estimate we will need to come up with many thousands of dollars - as with this news the hope and viability for small business for refugees in Kenya is now dashed. Although this fundraiser indicated an urgent need for $1800, has changed dramatically. We can expect the urgent needs of at least 150 LGBT refugees during June - August to be well over $450 per refugee. We are currently working with 35-60 LGBT refugees at any given time.