UNHCR provides support to refugees ahead of closure of emergency shelter

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is accelerating plans ahead of the expected closure of an emergency shelter which has housed vulnerable refugees with an LGBTI profile since December 2018.

The majority of the people have an LGBTI profile and were relocated from Kakuma refugee camp to Nairobi due to security concerns.

“This emergency facility was always intended to be temporary while trying to identify sustainable solutions,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya. “Since the moment refugees were moved to the shelter, we have been looking for alternative solutions that would allow them to live a normal and decent life,” she added, noting that the Kenyan authorities requested the facility to be closed on 12 April 2019.

“UNHCR believes that the best solution available for refugees who are still residing in the emergency shelter and those protesting outside our office is to accept financial assistance and support, and organize their stay in Kenya. This is a viable and appropriate solution, as confirmed by the nearly 100 refugees who have been staying outside the shelter after they were relocated out of Kakuma late last year,” said the UNHCR official. Several months later, these 100 refugees continue to reside in the greater community with no reported security incident.

Abdalla noted that 94 refugees have already decided to move out of the emergency shelter over the past two days. “This is a positive step in the right direction and we hope that the remaining 23 refugees will accept the solutions being offered to them. It is crucial to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate,” said the UNHCR official.  “We continue to work hard and to hope for a positive outcome,” she added.

UNHCR and its partners provide financial assistance to LGBTI refugees relocated from Kakuma in December 2018, as it does for other refugees at risk, including survivors of sexual violence, refugees with disabilities and children with medical conditions.

Additional support, such as counseling services, is offered by national and refugee (LGBTI) community-based organizations. LGBTI refugees have access, like any other refugee living in an urban setting, to the protection and services provided by the Government of Kenya, UNHCR and its partners.

“While we understand that resettlement is the solution they favor the most, it is important to keep in mind that the number of resettlement places currently available is very limited and that the final decision does not belong to UNHCR, but to the countries ultimately receiving these refugees,” she said.

UNHCR continues to seek more global support and funding to help assist and pursue solutions for the more than 470,000 refugees currently residing in Kenya, including LGBTI and other vulnerable refugees in need of additional protection and support.