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LGBTQ Refugees Allege Anti-Gay Police Harassment In Kenya: ‘We Are Suffering’

By Kelsey Marie

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Kenya is known as a refuge for the LGBTQ community in East Africa. However, many LGBTQ refugees have been tormented by Kenyan police in the past few weeks.

Nina Muregwa, a 17-year-old Burundi national, told TIME that she feels threatened ⁠— she escaped death threats because of her sexual identity back home. She escaped to Kenya thinking she finally found a safe haven, but she is once again scared for her life.

Kenya is the only country in East Africa where a person can be registered as a refugee based on their LGBTQ status.

Muregwa, along with 16 other refugees, reported being arrested at gunpoint by five police officers earlier in June. They were all locked up without being charged.

Two days later, on June 10, they were released and another group of police officers tried to arrest them. This time, the United Nations refugee agency stepped in.

Philip Ndolo, the Nairobi police chief, told The Associated Press the refugees were arrested for their own protection. No further details were given.

The refugees have locked themselves in their two-bedroom house in the capital city of Nairobi and won’t even leave for food because of the threats they are receiving from local residents.

Last month, there were protests by LGBTQ refugees outside the U.N. refugee agency office in Nairobi because the refugees wanted support from the U.N. and respect from Kenyan authorities.

There was also a sit-in protest in April, where some 55 LGBTQ refugees demanded that the Kenyan authorities not close the emergency shelter they were staying in.

Although the U.N. refugee agency has told the LGBTQ refugees they would assist in finding housing, Muregwa says, “the recent ruling has shown that we are not welcome in this country. We cannot live where we are unwanted.”

The refugees are currently receiving a $60 stipend per month but it is not enough to cover the cost of living.

Congolese refugee, Mvugonziza Espoir says, “we only eat porridge once a day. How can one only survive on porridge in this life? We are suffering.”

This comes after last month’s High Court’s ruling which upholds the criminalization of gay sex in Kenya.

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Kelsey Marie

Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie

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