Statement-UNHCR reiterates protection commitment for LGBTI+ refugees

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reiterates its commitment to ensuring that LGBTI+ refugees and asylum seekers residing in Kenya, including those living in Kakuma camp, are provided with necessary protection and support.

UNHCR is aware that there are some 157 refugees and asylum-seekers staying in and around Kakuma camp who claim to have an LGBTI+ profile. In June last year, 75 refugees/asylum-seekers, some of whom have made an LGBTI+ claim, were relocated by the Government to Kakuma, in line with its encampment policy. Others self-relocated to the camp, where they have access to shelter, food and other services.

UNHCR takes all reports of violence against refugees very seriously and works with law enforcement and other branches of government in Kenya to ensure that refugees are protected and feel safe. In December 2019, a group of more than 55 LGBTI+ refugees and asylum seekers who had been residing at the reception centre in Kakuma for several weeks, requested support to move into family housing units in the camp. On the basis of this, in line with the usual procedure for all refugees in Kakuma, they were provided with shelter and other supplies and they subsequently moved into the camp.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, some members of the group reported incidents of theft and shelter vandalism to local law enforcement authorities. These incidents were investigated and found to be part of a larger wave of shelter material thefts perpetrated in December by opportunistic criminal gangs.  At no point then or now, as we continue to monitor this situation on a daily basis, have police or our own independent investigations establish that this criminality was targeted against any specific group or profile, including those with an LGBTI+ profile.  The Kenyan authorities, with UNHCR and other support, in Kakuma have continue with good faith efforts to improve the security environment.

In addition, on the night of 7 January 2020, members of a  group of 35 refugees with an LGBTI+ profile  camping outside the Reception centre attempted to force their way into the reception area, alleging that one of them had been attacked and that they were at risk. The security company on the ground immediately alerted the UNHCR office and the police, who then deployed to the location. The incident was investigated but the alleged attack/assault at the venue could not be substantiated. Calm was quickly restored without physical intervention by the police.

It is important to note that a number of refugees and asylum-seekers with an LGBTI+ profile are residing among the community in Kakuma as well as in Nairobi and other urban areas in Kenya  and have been able to live in relative safety, some for several years. UNHCR will continue to closely monitor the circumstances of persons with an LGBTI+ profile inside the camps and those living in urban communities and , together with a range of other actors, will continue to do everything within our means to support these individuals. This includes following up with the appropriate authorities on any security incidents which come to our attention.

Decisions to relocate refugees to another location in Kenya are made on an individual basis, depending on specific protection needs and concerns of individuals, and require government authorization.

While it is easy to understand that many refugees with an LGBTI+ profile seek resettlement in a third country as their preferred solution, it is important to note that, worldwide, less than 1% of refugees in need of resettlement benefit from this durable solution. It is also important to note that final decisions on who benefits from resettlement rest with the receiving countries, not UNHCR.

UNHCR continues to seek more global support and funding to help assist and pursue solutions for the more than 480,000 refugees currently residing in Kenya, including LGBTI+ and other vulnerable refugees in need of additional protection and support.