These people are the most vulnerable refugees in the world. I have been in touch with people here for over a year. I know some of them. They have become my friends. Here are some basic facts about their situation. I hope you will read this and consider taking action.
As of this writing, June of 2022, Block 13, in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, houses between 50 -100 LGBTQ people, from many countries, in East Africa. These are men, women, and children of all ages. They have fled their home countries because of persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They face regular violence in Kakuma from other refugees as well as from the security forces who should protect them. The camp is run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and staffed largely by Kenyans.
The residents of Block 13 have consistently experienced violence against them and UNHCR has done little to improve security. In the last two years, dozens of Block 13 residents experienced machete and knife attacks. Many experienced rape. They have also had their shelters set afire during the night on several occasions. In September of 2020, the residents complained to UNHCR when they were attacked with tear gas. An infant, Namubiru Patricia Geneva, just a few days old, was struck with a tear gas canister and died a few months later of those injuries. In March of 2021, two men were burned, one fatally, when their shelter was set afire, one died and one spent months in a Nairobi hospital. Chriton Atuhwera, age 22, was burned in the attack on March 15, 2021 and died on April 12, 2021 in a Nairobi hospital. Jordan Ayesigye, also in his 20s, was burned and spent months recovering from his injuries in a Nairobi hospital. In August of 2021, several shelters were set afire during the night but while some people lost their belongings, fortunately, no one was injured. It is UNHCR’s mandate to provide a safe place for those seeking refuge.
Because of these fire attacks, Block 13 residents have slept outdoors for more than a year, with their own members keeping watch at night.
UNHCR has held several meetings over the last two years with members of Block 13. They have promised to improve security, they have asked the LGBTQ residents to meet with those who threaten them, and they have also promised that the process to grant Refugee Status Determination (RSD) would begin soon. Without this status, refugees cannot begin the process of resettlement into another country. The Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS), a Kenyan organization, is supposed to assist with the RSD process but it has never taken place. This leaves these vulnerable refugees in limbo. I believe this group recently changed its name to Department of Refugee Services. (DRS) As of this date, June, 2022, the RSD process has not begun. The people in Block 13 cannot move their cases forward without RSD status. This, followed by resettlement, is the only long-term solution.
Additionally, the residents of Block 13 cannot access many services available to others in Kakuma Refugee Camp because they are threatened and attacked by other refugees. They cannot attend schools or other services outside Block 13 without danger. They receive threats and violence when obtaining food, water, even charging their phones. Residents of Block 13 have experienced significant suffering from mental health issues from the strain under which they live. Also, they contend with regular police intimidation and random arrests, especially against those human rights defenders in Block 13 who speak out or use social media consistently. UNHCR needs to protect the LGBTQ refugees from these abuses.
Since January, 2022, the food rations given to Block 13 and all in the camp, have been reduced significantly. This produces deeper hardship and places these vulnerable refugees at even more risk. As other refugees and those living near the camp receive less, theft of food and violence to steal it, against Block 13, becomes more likely.
The LGBTQ refugees in Block 13 are among the most vulnerable refugees in the world. Most have been violently driven from their families and villages, so they cannot return to their home countries and they are not safe in this UN-run refugee camp. The European Parliament, in September of 2021, passed a resolution calling for the safety and resettlement of these vulnerable people. Read the EU Parliament Statement on LGBTQ Refugees in Kakuma via the link printed at the end of this post.
If you can assist these vulnerable people, please call or email your political representatives or the U. S. Department of State. You can also reach out to one of the contacts below.
For more information contact:
Victor Mukasa, Baltimore, Maryland
Victor posts regular updates about Block 13 on his Facebook page: Victor Mukasa
Gilbert Kagarura, Block 13
+254 768 359 383
Joseph Ross, Silver Spring, Maryland
Read the European Parliament Statement of LGBTQ Refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp here:
Here is a link to a Reuters News Agency article on Block 13 from March 2021:
You will find more information if you search:
“Block 13 Kakuma Refugee Camp LGBTQ Refugees”