Norton Requests U.S. and UNHCR Investigate Conditions Facing Ugandan LGBT Refugees in Kenya

Dec 12, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released her letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi requesting an investigation into the conditions faced by Ugandan LGBT refugees at the UNHCR Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.  After the Ugandan parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, many Ugandans fled to Kenya because of persecution related to their sexual orientation.  Norton informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of her letter and requested that he work with UNHCR on the investigation.

In her letter, Norton wrote, “The situation Ugandan LGBT refugees face in Kenya is appalling and needs to be investigated and improved immediately.  I understand that Ugandan refugees regularly face assault, theft and worse, including by police, because of their status… I have been informed that the conditions in [UNHCR’s Kakuma Refugee Camp] are also inexcusably appalling, with many LGBT refugees again facing antagonism stemming from intolerance there.  I request that you respond in writing within 30 days of the date of this letter addressing these ongoing issues and how UNHCR will work to improve the conditions of LGBT refugees in Kenya.”

Norton’s full letter is below.

The Honorable Filippo Grandi
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Suisse

Dear Commissioner Grandi:

I write to request that you investigate the condition of Ugandan LGBT refugees in Kenya.

As you know, following Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Ugandans fled to Kenya because of persecution related to their sexual orientation.  Making same-sex sexual activity punishable by up to life in prison, the Anti-Homosexuality bill was later nullified.  As has been frequently reported, however, that law led to increased homophobia in Uganda, which has led to further emigration.

The situation Ugandan LGBT refugees face in Kenya is appalling and needs to be investigated and improved immediately.  I understand that Ugandan refugees regularly face assault, theft and worse, including by police, because of their status.  Unable to speak the native Swahili, they cannot find jobs and live in terrible conditions, often including being forced into sex work.  They lack basic food, shelter and medical care.

Many of these refugees are pressured to go into the United Nations High Commission on Refugees’ (UNHCR) Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world.  I have been informed that the conditions in this camp are also inexcusably appalling, with many LGBT refugees again facing antagonism stemming from intolerance there.

I request that you respond in writing within 30 days of the date of this letter addressing these ongoing issues and how UNHCR will work to improve the conditions of LGBT refugees in Kenya.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Cc: Mike Pompeo, Secretary, U.S. Department of State

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