The Peter Tatchell Foundation has written to the UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, who as failed to respond to accusations of “neglect, collusion, and inaction” over the victimisation of LGBT+ asylum seekers in Kenya’s refugee camps.
According to Peter Tatchell, the UN High Commission For Refugees boss Filippo Grandi has failed to respond to concerns raised by the Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) over the alleged failure to protect LGBT+ people in Kenya, who have fled homophobic persecution from neighbouring countries like Uganda.
Speaking THEGAYUK Peter Tatchell said, “Since 2017, I have received persistent reports of neglect, indifference and abuse by UNHCR staff and those they employ, including the failure of the UNHCR to protect LGBT+ refugees from abuse and violence by other refugees and the Kenyan police,
“The UNHCR in Kenya has a duty of care towards all refugees, including LGBT+ ones. For at least two years, it has failed that duty of care – and sadly it continues to fail now”.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation has proposed a five-point plan to the UNHCR to end the threats, violence and exclusion, including removing UNHCR staff and contractors who have behaved in a homophobic way.
The letter sent by the PTF was sent to the UNHCR three times since Mid-January. The organisation has yet to response.
The letter from PTF reads,
Dear Filippo Grandi and UNHCR colleagues
Abuse of LGBT+ refugees in Kenya
I am a human rights defender of 52-years standing and Director of the London-based human rights ngo, the Peter Tatchell Foundation: http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org
I work with the UK and other governments on human rights issues.
I echo the concerns expressed by Richard de Luchi and LGBT+ refugees about the failure of the UNHCR to protect Ugandan and other LGBT+ refugees in the Kakuma and Nairobi refugee camps from homophobic abuse, threats and violence by fellow refugees, the Kenyan police and allegedly from some UNHCR staff and their external contracted employees, such as security staff.
The UNHCR in Kenya has a duty of care towards all refugees, including LGBT+ ones. For at least two years it has failed that duty of care – and sadly it continues to fail now.
Since 2017, I have received persistent reports of neglect, indifference and abuse by UNHCR staff and those they employ – and their failure to protect victimised LGBT+ refugees from abuse and violence by others. Allegations of prejudice and neglect persist against UNHCR staff.
This is in clear violation of the UNHCR’s mission statement and brings shame to an esteemed UN organisation.
You have the power to help put right these terrible wrongs. I urge you and the UNHCR to:
1. Halt the placement of LGBT+ refugees in the Kakuma camp. It is unsafe.
2. Transfer all LGBT+ refugees from Kakuma to Nairobi to a secure location, separate from other refugees who may threaten them (not all have been transferred thus far).
3. Speedily facilitate the resettlement of LGBT+ refugees to safe countries where they can live their lives without fear, threats, discrimination and violence.
4. Remove UNHCR staff and employed contractors who have behaved in a homophobic way towards LGBT+ refugees from any contact with these refugees and/ or dismiss them from UNHCR work.
5. Give UNHCR staff training in LGBT+ awareness and the unacceptability of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia – and make such prejudice a disciplinary offence.
I would be grateful to receive your assurances on these five points and be updated
on progress on their implementation.
Thank you very much.
Speaking to THEGAYUK, a spokesperson for the UNHCR said, “The safety and security of all refugees is of utmost priority to us.
“UNHCR is responding to Mr. Tatchell’s letter to address his stated concerns. Our Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Volker Turk, recently wrote to LGBTI activists engaged in this issue and reaffirmed our steadfast commitment to finding a solution to this situation.
“All LGBTI refugees registered and known to UNHCR in Kakuma are promptly relocated to safer places, where we provide them with shelter, food, water, medical care, legal and psychological counselling and other assistance. We ensure they receive official documentation that legalizes their residence in urban areas, an important measure in light of Kenya’s encampment policy. Assessments are conducted on immediate needs and to identify the best long-term solution.
“UNHCR is actively advocating with resettlement countries to increase the number of places available for LGBTI refugees. However, the number of resettlement places needed worldwide far outstrips the number of places available. For 2019, just 70,000 places are available for more than 1.4 million refugees UNHCR has identified as in need of resettlement. Our Nairobi office has been working to secure resettlement for as many LGBTI refugees in Kenya as possible. In the last part of 2018, we submitted more than 100 LGBTI cases for resettlement from Nairobi and have submitted approximately 150 further cases for consideration so far this year.
“UNHCR has a zero-tolerance policy towards any acts of misconduct by our staff or partners”
“UNHCR has a zero-tolerance policy towards any acts of misconduct by our staff or partners, including homophobic abuse. Any allegation we receive is passed on to our Independent Inspector General for investigation. All UNHCR staff and partners are required to sign our Code of Conduct, under which any acts of homophobic abuse leads to disciplinary measures, including dismissal.
This article has been updated since it was first published to reflect the comment by UNHCR