Move By Kenyan Government To Relocate Refugees Likely To Hurt LGBTI Cases

Africa 1ON Jan 24, 2013 Identity Kenya reported: NAIROBI– THE MOVE by the Government to relocate refugees to Kakuma and Daadab refugees camps in the North of Kenya has been condemned by leading human rights organizations.

Adding to those opposing this move are LGBTI human rights activists who say the plans by the Government will ‘likely hurt’ cases of LGBTI refugees currently in Kenya seeking protection as they will be exposed to homophobic environments.

The government told refugees from Somalia to report to the Dadaab camp while those from other countries should make their way to Kakuma. Internal Security permanent secretary Mutea Iringo said the government was working on a plan that would see the camps eventually closed and the refugees relocated to their countries.

Currently, refugees in Nairobi and other towns who disregarded a recent government order to move to camps will be arrested and moved forcefully. According to the UNHCR, the Somali refugee population in Kenya has reached 450,000, stretching infrastructure and services.

This number is far beyond the original intended capacity of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps in Dadaab, with a capacity of 90,000. More than 80,000 refugees and asylum seekers live at Kakuma camp. These include an estimated 43,000 Somalis. Other refugees come mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Médecins Sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch and The Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK), on behalf of the Urban Refugee Protection Network (URPN), have called on the Government to stop police harassment of refugees.

No assistance should be given to refugees outside these camps, said the Government directive issued last year.

Kituo Cha Sheria Programme Co-ordinator on Forced Migration Solomon Wasia said recent media coverage has aggravated xenophobic attitudes towards genuine refugees and asylum seekers who are law abiding people seeking protection from prosecution and conflicts in their home countries.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are not a threat to national security,” he said.

Senior refugee researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch Gerry Simpson said in a statement that the plan would violate refugees’ free movement rights and the unlawful forced eviction of tens of thousands of refugees may be used in the process.

Adding to the opposition is the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Director Eric Gitari termed the move as illegal and unjustified.

Kenya hosts several hundred LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers who are forced to hide their sexuality out of fear or persecution, according to several research undertaken since 2010.

They come from various countries such as Uganda where an anti-gay legislation is currently in Parliament. Others come from Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania and Burundi.

Gitari said refugees ‘face systemic homophobia and rejection by their own communities in camps, as well as frequent physical and sexual attacks, arbitrary arrests, expulsion houses and xenophobia.’

Ms Roselyn Odoyo, a human rights lawyer and LGBTI legal expert said the move will infringe on the rights of LGBT refugees as well as make Kenya guilty of not upholding international law.

‘This will affect the right to life for most LGBT refugees because sharia law applies (in most of the countries they come from). Kenya is a signatory to various international refugee obligations on prevention of torture, respect for human dignity and a myriad of other economic and social rights that are under international law. Kenya is thus obligated to uphold these. Returning refugee to a place in which it is reasonable to believe that their lives will be in danger is a clear violation of this.’

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