U.N. to boost security for LGBT+ refugees after deadly arson attack at Kenya camp

Tuesday, 13 April 2021 14:39 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Congolese refugee Batundi Safari and Ugandan refugee Peter Nsubuga, both members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, sit inside their shelter at the Kakuma refugee camp, in Turkana county, northwest of Nairobi, Kenya February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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LGBT+ refugees at the Kakuma camp have repeatedly complained about their safety in recent years, citing numerous attacks by other residents and local people

By Nita Bhalla

NAIROBI, April 13 (Openly) - Security will be beefed up for LGBT+ people living in a Kenyan refugee camp, a U.N. official said on Tuesday, following the death of a gay man who was set alight in the latest attack targeting sexual minorities at the Kakuma camp.

The 32-year-old Ugandan died on Monday in a Nairobi hospital where he and another LGBT+ refugee were being treated for burns sustained in the March 15 attack. The other man is expected to be discharged soon, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

Witnesses told the Thomson Reuters Foundation a petrol bomb was thrown near the man as he and the other refugee slept on a mattress in the open air.

The UNHCR, which runs the Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya, said Kenyan police were still investigating the incident. There have been no arrests so far.

"We will do our best to support the police investigation. Additional security is being deployed. Psychological support is available and our teams are on the ground and are available to help in this difficult moment," said Dana Hughes, UNHCR's regional spokesperson.

"Measures to address specific protection concerns are being strengthened. This includes, when necessary, providing shelter in another part of the camps on a case-by-case basis and after assessments by our colleagues."

The UNHCR said in a statement the victim had "previous health issues", without giving details about the cause of death.

There are an estimated 300 LGBT+ refugees - from countries such as Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo - living in Kakuma, a sprawling camp home to more than 160,000 people.

Over the last three years, LGBT+ refugees have repeatedly complained about their security and have staged demonstrations, giving examples of gay men being slashed with knives, lesbians pelted with rocks, and their shelters being set on fire.

Last month, LGBT+ refugees called on the UNHCR to move them to a safer area citing at least five attacks on them from other refugees and host communities since the beginning of the year, including an arson attack in which three men were hospitalised.

The UNHCR says relocations can only happen on an individual basis, but the refugees want to be relocated as a group for safety reasons.

Gilbert Kagarura, spokesman for the camp's "Block 13" area where the victim lived, said the UNHCR had been given repeated warnings about the threats faced by LGBT+ refugees.

"It wasn't as though there were no warning signs. For years, we have been complaining about the threats we face and asking to be moved elsewhere yet nothing has happened," Kagarura said.

"The death of our friend has made our reality all the more clearer. But we wonder how many more of us it will take to die before someone sees our lives as worthy."


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(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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