On May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia will be observed worldwide, followed by many celebrations of Pride in the month of June. We at the Refugee Coalition of East Africa will raise our voices in solidarity and visibility with our fellows around the world during these upcoming events. We are also in desperate need of your attention.
The situation in East Africa has deteriorated in the past year. Both as a result of the global health crisis and because said crisis has taken so much of the world's attention, we are suffering unnoticed. There has been a sharp increase in anti-queer violence in the region, most notably the recent (and unpunished) murder of our fellow, Trinidad in the refugee camp in Kakuma. There has also been a marked increase in targeted harassment of LGBTQI+ persons, particularly of refugees, by local police.
We have been left to fend for ourselves and we ask the world to take notice and to come to our aid. The Kenyan government, open in its disdain for queer persons (and in particular queer refugees) has turned a blind eye to not only civilian violence, but to harassment by local officials. We have seen increased assault on our fellows. We have experienced open homophobic and transphobic barriers to our access to healthcare. We hear of the camp closing in Kakuma but we do not hear of any programs, assistance or planning to help these persons find new homes and safety, particularly the queer refugees whose lives are already in danger.
The recent legislation in Uganda will likely result in a new influx of queer persons fleeing to Kenya, yet how can we prepare to help those people when we are denied the resources and assistance to adequately care for those that are already here?
We call upon the UNHCR to intervene on our behalf and not turn the other way when the Kenyan authorities abuse us and ignore when we are assaulted and killed. We also ask that the UNHCR increase its efforts to unclog the resettlement pipelines in its systems and prioritize LGBTQI+ persons in the region as the violence we have experienced displays, with no uncertainty, that our lives are in constant danger. We ask for increased efforts to develop programs and solutions for queer refugees who are currently choosing between a camp (that will soon close) where they are in danger or urban living where we are unsupported, unable to work, and regularly subject to discrimination and violence.
We call upon the world media and human rights organizations to take notice. We ask you to see that our situation has become intolerable and that we need your help. We need assistance and we need visibility so that local authorities feel the pressure to observe our basic human rights. We thank outlets including VICE and Thomson Reuters who are seeing us and writing about our plight, and we ask for the same from others who have resources and/or networks that could do more.
We understand that there is much happening in the world and that many are suffering, but we implore the international community to take notice, to remember that we exist, and to raise your voices against those who harm us. We implore humankind to not let us slip from your consciousness. We need protection, basic provisions, housing, health care and safety. We need you.
The Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA) is a registered community 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 an umbrella organization in order to facilitate long-term planning, advocacy, and representation, and to provide fiscal management and fundraising support for its members. Additionally, RefCEA oversees research initiatives representing the LGBTQI refugee community and works toward improving conditions for refugees during the resettlement waiting period. Current membership consists of: Nature Network, Foundation for LBQ Women Refugees, Refugee Trans Initiative, COSIR, Pride Umbrella Kenya, Lunko Haute Couture, Dessert Roses Foundation, and Refugee French Speaking Association. www.refugeecoalition.com .