JOINT PROTESTS in NEW YORK CITY, UK AND CANADA PLANNED FOR TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST TO FREE BLOCK 13 KAKUMA
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST 2020
UNHCR NYC HQ
220 E 42ND
ONE BLOCK FROM GRAND CENTRAL STATION
1-3:00 PM PST
UNHCR SAN FRANCISCO HQ
39 DRUMM STREET
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST 2020
UNHCR CANADA BRANCH OFFICE
280 ALBERT STREET #401
WE PROTEST TO AMPLIFY THE VOICES AND PLIGHT OF KAKUMA REFUGEE CAMP AND GET OUR LGBTQIA SIBLINGS TO SAFETY
When we first heard of the atrocities, the fear, and inhumane living situations plaguing the LGBTQI refugees in Block 13 of Kakuma, we were appalled and baffled at the inaction of the UNHCR in these dire circumstances. Our brothers and sisters were being attacked, robbed, threatened, and even raped because of who they are. The homophobia and transphobia from locals and officials have poisoned their lives in an irreparable way and we need to do everything we can to get them out of this Hell and move them on to safe houses and eventual asylum in other countries. We were asked by the leadership of the Block 13 camp to establish a protest and we began organizing immediately.
As we gathered fellow activists to join the cause, we connected with many who had been following the situation there for months to learn everything we could about the situation and how we can best aid those in need. Through the fire of the human spirit and the magic of the internet, our initial September 1st protest has grown from NYC to Canada and The UK! This has become an inspiring and powerful movement in true solidarity and we hope to see other cities and countries join us in our fight for justice and dignity.
freeblock13 #freeblock13kakuma #lgbtq #protest #kenya #blessings #asylum #unhcr #persecution #homophobia #transphobia
NEW YORK CITY
There is a protest planned for September 1st, 2020 from 4-6 pm at the UNHCR NYC headquarters, 220 E 42nd Street near Grand Central Station. We will be gathering in support of the LGBTQ+ refugees currently suffering inhumane treatment at Block 13. It would be great to get some news coverage for this event. Can you commit to sharing this event with your friends or if you have any leads to sending a reporter or news van out to interview some folks? This is not just an LGBTQ+ issue – it’s a human rights issue as well.
Check out more from former refugee Victor Makusa’s @GoFundMe campaign: https://gf.me/u/yjp94x
We are currently working with a group of 160+ LGBTQ+ refugees living at the UNHCR Kakuma refugee camp near Kakuma town, Kenya. This group of young people had their houses destroyed by hostile gangs of homophobic refugees back in May. They now live in a squalid section of the camp called “Block 13,” with only mats to sleep on the ground. I am contacting you today to ask your news agency to investigate this situation and do some human rights reporting on these unnecessary abuses against LGBTQ+ folks who only wish to be themselves.
Due to the pandemic, national rivalries within the camp, and homophobic and discriminatory treatment, these LGBTQ+ youth are facing horrible circumstances. Human rights activists have been witnessing these abuses closely since an LGBTQ+ refugee named Aneste (Ernest) Mweru committed suicide outside the UNHCR Kenya offices in Nairobi in April 2020. When the Block 13 group decided to protest outside the Kakuma camp headquarters for better conditions afterward, they were teargassed and sent back to fend for themselves in this dangerous camp. The teargas attack by UNHCR security officials is documented on video.
Machete attacks, sexual assault, rapes, lack of medical care, the destruction of housing, unsanitary conditions, and the restriction of their movement within the camp are just some of what they endure there. The shelters provided for these 160+ people to live in are meager – they live communally within a few shacks, with no running water and overflowing latrines. Several people stay up each night to guard against further attacks. It’s the rainy season now, so some people are getting sick with malaria and typhoid as well.
There are hundreds of photos of injuries and some videos of attacks sustained by people in Block 13, most of which were sent to activists in other countries. Victor Mukasa can provide the names of certain refugees to interview as needed, to build a compelling “human rights crisis” news story for publication or broadcast.
Most of these refugees at Block 13 are from Uganda. They are fleeing the rampant homophobic persecution there. Most of this group has chosen to remain out, even in the refugee camp. So they are singled out for mistreatment by both UNHCR security and machete-wielding gangs of South Sudanese refugees. They feel their lives are in danger and are pleading with UNHCR Kenya to evacuate their group from the camp. (A previous evacuation of LGBTQ+ refugees occurred in 2018.)
There are quite a few out trans women in the group. There is also a group of lesbian mothers, some of whom are raising children who are the product of “corrective rapes.” One young man who was caught out on the road was beaten by a group of men, thrown in a ditch and left for dead. He broke his femur in the fall, and so may be facing permanent disability as a result. Despite the horror of witnessing these torturous conditions, I am honored and humbled to work with this group of frontline LGBTQ+ activists. They are talented and inspiring young people who deserve safety and security as much as anyone else.
Luckily, Victor Mukasa, an international human rights activist since 2003, is doing an incredible job of providing a children’s program at Block 13, trained counselors available for the adults, and even a medical doctor from Canada to consult with them over the phone. Victor is a former Ugandan citizen now living in Baltimore, MD. He has spent the last six years assisting LGBTQ+ refugees seeking better conditions. He does live broadcasts weekly featuring interviews with the Block 13 LGBTQ+ residents on “The Victor Mukasa Show” on Facebook Live.
There is a protest planned for September 1st, 2020 from 4-6 pm at the UNHCR NYC headquarters, 220 E 42nd Street near Grand Central Station. We will be gathering in support of the LGBTQ+ refugees currently suffering inhumane treatment at Block 13. It would be great to get some news coverage for this event. Can you commit to sending a reporter or news van out to interview some folks? This is not just an LGBTQ+ issue – it’s a human rights issue as well.
We implore you to help us get the word out about the torturous conditions these LGBTQ+ refugees at Block 13 are facing on a daily basis. Human rights activists who have been witnessing these attacks for several months and helped document these abuses are available for interviews as well.