Now Reading
LGBTI refugees arrested after protest turns violent in Kenya

LGBTI refugees arrested after protest turns violent in Kenya

Special forces and police released tear gas on refugee protesters in Kenya

LGBTI refugees in Kenya are looking for the help of a lawyer after police arrested them for protesting outside a United Nations office.

The LGBTI refugees were among others refugees who had set up camp outside the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) on 10 May in Nairobi. They had slowly assembled over the past few weeks.

They planned to peacefully protest, claiming the UNHCR had not given them their monthly payments.

According to local media, the protest soon turned violent when officers from local police and the General Service Unit  – the paramilitary wing of the Kenyan National Police – tried to physically remove the protesters. Police then burned the possessions of the protesters after the arrests.

Mbazira Moses who heads the LGBTI group – Rainbow Flag Kenya – was badly beaten in the scuffle. A video shows a group of officers around him as tear gas is released onto the protesters. Mbazira sustained head injuries.

Mbazira Moses speaks to refugees at a protest in Kenya | Photo: Supplied

He has since gone on a hunger strike to protest his arrest and the harsh conditions refugees face. He claimed he has been denied medical treatment and access to lawyers since his arrest.

‘I am on hunger strike and just like Mahatma Gandhi I will not eat or drink until I gain liberty, freedom, and justice,’ Mbazira told Gay Star News.

‘I’m in an appalling situation, with deep cuts and a swollen face. I can hardly talk or walk.’

a man with a bloody face is lying on the grounds
Mbazira Moses after his arrest in Nairobi | Photo: Facebook

On Monday morning (13 May), the 17 arrested people faced a mentions hearing at the Kibera Court. They will enter a plea on Tuesday to the charges of unlawful assembly, creating disturbance, using language that threatened police officers, assault of a police officer and GSU officers.

What the UNHCR said

UNHCR provided Gay Star News with a statement about Friday’s incident. It expressed its concerns after the protest ‘took a violent turn’. 

‘We regret that, despite our continuous efforts to engage with and offer solutions to protesters, the situation has deteriorated over the past 48 hours, with some refugees blocking roads and coming into direct physical confrontation with a small number of police officers,’ said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya.

Police forcibly lift a protester into a police truck
Police forcibly lift a protester into a police truck | Photo: Supplied

The UNHCR said it had maintained regular contact with the refugees and asylum seekers to try and understand their grievances. But it said since Wednesday a small of number people started escalating the protests.

According to UNHCR protesters began blocking staff access to the offices. It called the police after several protesters began throwing rocks.

‘We urge the group to stop preventing other refugees, some in a very vulnerable situation, from accessing our premises and receiving the counselling, protection and assistance that they need,’ Abdalla said.

Abdalla warned breaking the laws of their host country can only make the already difficult situation of this group of refugees worse, and risks encouraging anti-refugee sentiments.

About LGBTI refugees, the UNHCR said ‘irst and foremost, we want to stress that the protection of all refugees, including those with an LGBTI profile, is UNHCR’s core priority’.

‘For several weeks, UNHCR has been engaged in active dialogue with refugees protesting in front of our office to understand their grievances and address them, and to offer its assistance.  This includes financial assistance,’ a spokesperson said.

‘We have engaged at length with the refugees and asylum seekers outside the office to listen to their concerns and offer solutions over the past few months, engaging on daily basis with this group.

‘This being said, it is important to stress that refugees also have obligations, including abiding by the laws of their country of asylum  

‘We really hope that the violence of a few will not negatively impact the many other refugees including those of with an LGBTI background living in Kenya.’

Gay Star News also reached out to Kenya Police for comment.