A coalition of LGBT refugees in East Africa wants authorities in Kenya and globally to speak out against violence meted out against queer refugees in that country’s huge Kakuma refugee camp.
By Kikonyogo Kivumbi
In a letter issued June 20 to coincide with World Refugee Day, Craig Paris, the executive director of the Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA) condemned “the violent attacks on queer refugees in the camp in Kakuma. Our LGBTQI siblings there are constantly under assault, being beaten and hurt.”
The statement added: “We are seeing blood every day and it breaks my heart. Moreover, the silence in response, from both the authorities and the world at large, is deafening.”
A Ugandan gay refugee committed suicide last April in Kenya following reports of abuse.
RefCEA is a community-based umbrella organization for and by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. RefCEA was established to unite the various independent LGBTQI refugee organizations in East Africa under one organization with a mission of advocacy, strategy, fundraising, and research.
The World Refugee day letter by RefCEA is reproduced verbatim below:
Friday 20 June 2020, NAIROBI, KENYA – The Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA) joins our fellow refugees worldwide today in celebrating World Refugee Day. According to UNHCR, “World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.”
For the queer refugee, having not only mustered the strength and courage to flee our homes, a new source of fortitude must often be found to survive the anti-LGBTQI persecution in a new country. Resilience is a quality that must be drawn upon every day. The empathy and understanding of the world at large, celebrated on this day, helps to fortify that courage.
Executive Director Craig Paris released the following statement today on the state of queer refugees:
Today on World Refugee Day 2020, I want to send out my regards to all queer refugees not only here in Kenya, but around the world. I send this message to remind us that we are a symbol of resilience, a symbol of survival, a symbol of hope and of moving forward. Today, and going forward, let us shift our focus from what we are going through and onto what we intend to do, and to look ahead to what we are going to achieve in the future.
I also want to take this moment to condemn the violent attacks on queer refugees in the camp in Kakuma. Our LGBTQI siblings there are constantly under assault, being beaten and hurt. We are seeing blood every day and it breaks my heart. Moreover, the silence in response, from both the authorities and the world at large, is deafening.
Standing in solidarity with our Black Americans who are fighting for their lives, let us always remember to include those among us who are most at risk. Black Queer Refugee Lives Matter, and we must continue to fight for the safety and reservation of Black lives of all identities.
To the rest of the world, the non-refugees who live in your homes and continue your lives in the place of your choosing, I ask you to come out and do something today. I implore you to show up for every queer refugee, in any way you can. Change your mind about us, and start by changing the stigma you have about us in your own thinking. We are strong, we are a community, we are human. We are your equal.
To my fellow LGBTQI refugees, we can accomplish more with love, by tapping into our own humanity even when it can be hard to find. We can use our experience to manifest what is possible. We are the example, when we come together and help one another, of how humans are supposed to live. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, the world is under conflict everywhere, many of us have barely enough to survive, and yet still we have a responsibility because we are still and always human. We are a part of the global village, and we must fight for what is right. Our experience enables us to see life differently, to be more understanding, to be more caring, and to be more resilient, so let us never lose sight of our compassion and our love.
I also want to express my unending gratitude to everyone who supports us, everyone who tries to help us in whatever way they can, and to those who keep us in their minds and hearts, and who do what they can. I send my love to everyone who tries to do positive things for the human race.
And mostly, I send my love to all LGBTQI refugees around the globe today on World Refugee Day 2020.
Yours in Love and Solidarity,
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the author of this article, is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.