• A 'particular social group' is under siege from attackers with no direct intervention
I don’t generally like to ask people to reach into their pockets, but sometimes one really has no choice.
Victor Mukasa, my old comrade in arms from the era when I was more active as an LGBTQ+ activist than I am nowadays, has accomplished the feat of tearing my attention away from the Covid-19 pandemic for a little while.
An LGBTQ+ human rights defender and consultant from Uganda, Victor, who now lives in the US, has started a Go Fund Me page to raise relief funds for 137 LGBTQ+ refugees on Block 13 Kakuma Camp in Kenya.
The money is for food, medical care, bedding and other basics. Several of my activist friends and others have lent their support to the campaign and I felt that it would be remiss of me not to give whatever little support I can.
Victor has evidence the refugees have faced and continue to face violent homophobic and transphobic attacks from fellow refugees and others in the camp.
He has shared shocking videos of the 137 who escaped their countries, hoping to find a safe haven in Kenya on their way to hopefully being resettled by the UN and other international agencies.
In Victor’s words, “The worst attack so far took place on June 19. At least 31 LGBTQ refugees were wounded badly in this massive attack, requiring hospital.”
Victor said, “Their property was either stolen or destroyed by the attackers. They did not get help from those mandated to protect them and their property. They got minimal first aid from a hospital that night and that was it.”
The refugees have been attacked with knives, pangas, sticks and stones. They have sustained broken limbs, head injuries on top of the mental hardship that has been inflicted on them.
The attacks have continued and Victor has started an online campaign in which he urges the UNHCR to evacuate the 137 from Kakuma camp, which is clearly not a safe place for LGBTQ refugees.
As I write this, there appears to have been no action from the UNHCR. This is shameful, especially since that organisation’s own guidelines state: “International and national developments in sexual orientation case law clearly show that LGBT persons may be recognised as a 'particular social group' and, as such, are entitled to protection under the 1951 Convention.”
But then again, I have seen enough evidence in 30+ years as a journalist to show that the UN is a massive bureaucracy that appears to have difficulty doing its job properly.
Of course by writing that, I have just ensured that I will never land a UN job, no matter how qualified I am for it, but small matter.
One lives in hope, however, that eventually the light will shine through and the lives of the 137 will be saved.
If you feel moved and want to participate in urging the UNHCR to evacuate these refugees from Kakuma camp to safety, please visit:
Writing this has reminded me how in my job as a news reporter, it is easy to get swamped by Covid-19 news and to forget that there are other things going on in the world at the same time.
So often it feels as if during the last four months, almost every story I have written has had something to with the pandemic.
When I get the chance to engage in non-Covid stories, I feel like one who is playing truant. I have to keep telling myself that as much as the pandemic and its effects have seized the entire world, there are other things going on.