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LGBTQI refugees facing persecution in Kenya

LGBTQI refugees facing persecution in Kenya


Martin Okello, 29, fled to Kenya from his native Uganda to seek asylum and protection under the UN refugee agency.

Okello’s life in Uganda was shattered in 2014 when a male sex worker outed him as a homosexual.

The former radio journalist who was fired from the Christian radio station and kicked out of his home by his Catholic parents. He fled to the Kenyan capital and joined a shelter for queer people.

“There is no place that is safe, it’s all about keeping a low profile rather than keeping a high profile. And I was also recently beaten and attacked by the Kenyan homophobic people. They really hurt me and no one could actually engage themselves into the matter, the onlookers. So the situation was really very much worse. So I was beaten and left for dead and that is why I came here to seek asylum under UNHCR Nairobi Kenya”, Okello said.

Okello hopes to be resettled in New York in the United States of America. But global restrictions on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic have put the process on hold.

The International Organization for Migration announced Thursday the restrictions were finally being lifted.

The news came two days before World Refugee Day on June 20. The day recognizes the millions of people forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution.

“Once I am done with the interview, I will be getting resettled at New York in the United States of America, and there I expect to actually live a life with people of my kind, because here in Nairobi it is more like now I have been thrown in the dungeon of lions where I think that life is not good and people are homophobic. It’s very much insecure for my kind”, he said.

For now, Okello has found solace in a group shelter called the “House of Nature” in the southwest of Nairobi.

Such shelters are open to refugees and serve as an alternative family and offer support to overcome past traumas.

Human Rights Watch says 32 African nations have varying laws criminalizing homosexuality. In many cases, the laws are left over from the colonial era.


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