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Arson attack leaves lesbians in Kenyan refugee camp with nothing

SALLY JACKSON, of the women’s liberation group FiLiA, highlights how women fleeing homophobia in their home countries are placed by UNHCR in the Kakuma refugee camp – where their persecution continues

“WE have been tortured and at the same time they are arresting us, but why? Spreading petrol at our shelters, the bottles of petrol surrounded the place where we stay, as a mother it’s terrible our kids as we shouted they started crying, we don’t deserve this life. Why is all this happening to us don’t we have blood like others? Please, UNHCR rescue us from this hell.”

Kyazike Reginah – resident of Kakuma refugee camp

Once again, lesbians at Kakuma camp in Kenya at Block 13, along with the other refugees, are in danger, as they have suffered a fourth arson attack this year.

On August 16, the block was awakened by what sounded like gunshots. When they arose, they were met with the smell of petrol fumes all over their compound and they noticed huge amounts of it all around the shelter where the children sleep.

Police were called. They refused to come out to investigate before daylight. Thankfully the children were moved. 

The police told them to leave the petrol containers as they were evidence. It turns out the petrol wasn’t just around the children’s shelter. 

An hour later, the entire block was alight. From the time this was all reported, it took two-and-a-half hours for the police to show up. The station is five minutes away.

Every single bit of shelter they had left there burned to the ground, as did everything inside them and near to them. 

They, quite literally, have nothing left. Twenty-five children and their mothers are now without any shelter. 

There is absolutely nothing to protect them from the burning African sun, or the torrential downpours when they come. 

They have no food, clothing, shelter, toiletries, or any other essentials to survive even at night. 

All of their documentation and IDs as well as any personal belongings are gone. They have been left with only the clothing on their backs.

The intent of these violent crimes is clearly to kill and injure the LGB&T community in Kakuma. 

In the last year, they have already suffered three deaths. When the refugees went to the main police station for help, they were sent back and threatened at gunpoint. 

Unbelievably, the police then came to the camp and said they wanted to take four of the men to meet with UNHCR, but instead of a meeting they arrested them. 

The state-sanctioned homophobia once again adding to their struggle.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is fully aware of these multiple arson attacks. The police are fully aware. The Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) is fully aware. 

Yet they do nothing to prevent the attacks. They do nothing to compensate, and nothing to protect this community and their refusal to act only encourages the homophobic attacks to continue. 

They have provided mats and blankets for the refugees but that it all. It is time to hold them to account and force them to provide the help and support that they are mandated to.

We won’t remain silent while our sisters suffer. 

We demand protection for Block 13.

We demand  their evacuation to safety.

We demand the unconditional release of the detained refugees and urge the police in Kakuma to carry out investigations to find the criminals responsible.

To donate to the fundraiser to replace belongings lost in the fire go to mstar.link/EmergencyReliefBlock13.

For more information about FiLiA and their campaign to support the Kakuma refugees go to filia.org.uk.

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