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Kenya: Renewed attack on LGBTQ refugees as U.N. refuses to act

The U.N. refugee agency remained frozen in denial of the dangers facing LGBTQ refugees even as anti-gay assailants launched an organized attack yesterday against scores of LGBTQ refugees seeking safety at the gates of the huge Kakuma refugee camp.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

LGBTQ refugee at the gates of the Kakuma refugee camp. (Photo courtesy of the O-blog-dee blog)

Officials of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stuck with the claim that LGBTQ refugees have suffered nothing worse than petty vandalism and theft.

The officials insist that the LGBTQ refugees must return to their assigned locations inside the nearly 200,000-person camp, from which they fled after a homophobic attack on Dec. 21. The refugees at the gate say they are being denied food and water in order to force them to return to the dangers of their assigned housing.

They are particularly targeted by straight Sudanese refugees in the camp and Turkana people who live in the area. Reportedly the Turkana people believe that the arrival of LGBTQ people from Uganda and other East African countries caused the drought currently afflicting the region.

The latest attack was yesterday. About 50 assailants, all wearing white T-shirts so they could coordinate their assault, set upon the LGBTQ refugees at the Kakuma gates with stones and sticks. Many refugees fled; some sought safety at the local police station; some were moved to the hospital for treatment of injuries.

Activists have unsuccessfully urged the UNHCR to establish a secure location where LGBTQ refugees can live in safety while they await relocation out of Kenya.

Based on refugees’ accounts of the Jan. 7 attack, the African Human Rights Coalition reported on the O-blog-dee advocacy blog:

“The 45 LGBTQI refugees who have been camped out at the UNHCR Kakuma Reception Center Gates have been beaten and injured in an attack tonight by a mob in white T Shirts. The report we have received is that this was an organized attack. The attackers apparently outnumbered the refugees. Some refugees were able to flee into the surrounding darkness. Others have been hospitalized or fled to the nearest police station.

“The attackers wore white T shirts so that they could identify each other. They threw stones and wielded sticks. …

“It is reported that the attacking crowd was large out numbering the refugees. Those that could not flee in time were beaten with sticks and stones. Some of the injured have been taken to hospital. …

“The refugees had nowhere else to go after a Dec 21 attack [inside the camp], which sent them fleeing to the gates. UNHCR has been made aware of the Dec 21 attack and ongoing events since, yet have failed to come up with solution other than to suggest the refugees return to the shelters where they were initially attacked.

“This attack proves the refugees have nowhere to go and are trapped in a situation where they are fodder for beatings! It also proves that the LGBTQI group is being targeted and not mere victims of petty theft or vandalism as suggested by UNHCR ….

“Officials at UNHCR in Geneva are aware of the earlier attacks, yet there has been no offer of resolution or resources to help the attacked refugees.”

Overview of a portion of the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where many LGBTQ Ugandan refugees are held. (Photo courtesy of Ephemerian)