The situation for LGBTQ-refugees in the Kakuma camp in Kenya is getting worse

Jack Molay
3 min readJan 16, 2024

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“LGBTQ Refugees in Kakuma” (a site addressing the needs of Ugandan queer and trans refugees in Kenya) reports that an increasing number of the refugees flee to South Sudan to escape homophobia and transphobia in the refugee camp.

If this is the case, the situation must be extreme, as the policies of the South Sudan government is even more queerphobic than the ones of Kenya. There is also war in South Sudan. What draws refugees to South Sudan, though, seems to be stories of some escaping from South Sudan to the US.

UNHCR, the United Nations organization for refugees, is present in the Kakuma camp, and they have published a short report presenting their view of the situation.

They write:

There are currently some 800 refugees in Kenya who have sought international protection because of persecution based on their LGBTIQ+ profile, with many living in the refugee camps in Kakuma and Dadaab. Individuals with an LGBTIQ+ profile have also sought asylum on other protection grounds.

In line with global commitments, UNHCR continues to closely follow the situation of LGBTIQ+ refugees in Kenya as individuals with heightened protection risks and makes every effort to ensure their individual protection needs are addressed.

There is no reason to doubt the commitment of the UNHCR in this respect. UN policies are based on the understanding that the life quality of LGBTQ people is a matter of fundamental human rights.

But the local branch of the UNHCR faces the challenge of having to collaborate with a local government with homophobic and transphobic laws, and with an increased hostility towards queer and trans people in general.

Young black woman with rainbow flag

Nakafeero Swabulah, an LGBTQ leader in the Kakuma camp, does not trust the police in the Kakuma camp, as they can be as homophobic and transphobic as those they are supposed to protect the refugees from.

Representatives of the local LGBTQ community are not happy with the fact that UNHCR’s ambition is only to hope to “minimize the negative effects of such policies”, rather than to put an end to the harassment of LGBTQ refugees in the camp.

LGBTQ leaders in the camp argue that:

  • UNHCR and its partners do not provide the refugees with the rations needed to avoid starvation.
  • The UNHCR and the Kenyan authorities do not do enough to stop the violence against — and the murder of — LGBTQ people in the camp.
  • The UNHCR does not do enough to help refugees get out of a camp that feels more and more like a prison.

Read more here:

On the situation for LGBTQ-refugees in Kakuma, Kenya — an update

More about Uganda, Kenya and Ugandan LGBTQ refugees in Kenya:

Top photo: Mr.matija.kovac — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Photo of Nakafeero from LGBTQ Refugees in Kakuma

Originally published at https://trans-express.lgbt on January 16, 2024.

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Jack Molay

Writer and news curator looking at everything transgender, nonbinary and queer.