Refugees being offered assistance and support as emergency shelter about to close

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has offered its assistance and support to the remaining 19 LGBTI refugees still residing in an emergency shelter located on the outskirts of Nairobi. The shelter, which has housed vulnerable refugees since December 2018, is expected to close imminently.

“We encourage this group of refugees to explore alternative and sustainable solutions, and we are ready to assist,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya, noting that the Kenyan authorities, who had originally requested that the facility to be closed mid-April, extended their deadline until today, 8 May 2019.

“UNHCR believes that the immediate solution available for this group of refugees is to accept the assistance and support they are being offered, and organize their stay in Kenya, following the example of other LGBTI refugees in a similar situation,” Abdalla said.

Over the last four weeks, UNHCR staff met repeatedly with the 19 refugees, both as a group and individually, listening to their concerns and reiterating UNHCR’s offer to assist and support.

“UNHCR staff have extensively engaged with this group as we really wanted to listen to their concerns, discuss alternatives and find a peaceful solution given that continued stay in the facility has become untenable. Some of our community-based partners have offered to house particularly vulnerable members of this group,” added Abdalla.

UNHCR and its partners have been providing support to a sizable group of LGBTI refugees since their relocation out of Kakuma refugee camp in December 2018. Most moved to an emergency shelter located on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Since the beginning of 2019, some 250 refugees have accepted to relocate to other areas of Kenya and to receive UNHCR’s financial assistance or other type of support. This includes 148 refugees who accepted assistance after the announcement of the closure of the facility last month.

While some of these refugees have reported security instances related to general criminality in urban areas, the majority told UNHCR that they have found housing and are using the support services offered by the organization and its partners to help adjust to life in the communities in which they have settled.

“We continue to advocate for the resettlement of some of these refugees, keeping in mind that this is the solution favored by most. However there are real limitations in terms of resettlement places available and it’s important to keep in mind that the final decision belongs to the countries receiving refugees for resettlement,” 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.