July 1, 2015
Over the past decade, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans have sought safety and asylum in various countries, but never in such numbers or with such a high degree of visibility as following the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in December 2013. When reports of LGBT Ugandans seeking refuge in Kenya began to surface in the months following, many international donors and LGBT activists in the region felt at a loss for how to respond. Stories of LGBT Ugandans in the Kakuma refugee camp and Nairobi highlighted difficult living conditions, harassment, arrests and violence. Refugee service providers, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), struggled to respond to the unexpected influx, one that coincided with a government crackdown on refugees in Kenya. It seemed that the Ugandans had left one hostile and insecure environment for another, yet the numbers continued to grow. Instead of slowing, following the Anti-Homosexuality Act's nullification in August 2014, the stream of asylum seekers from Uganda continued and even increased. Donors and activists alike felt that they lacked the full picture of what was occurring, why, and what the range of possible and appropriate interventions could be. This research sought to gain a greater understanding of the LGBT Ugandans who fled their country following the bill's passage, to determine (to the extent possible) their numbers and characteristics, and to capture some of their experiences of asylum seeking. It examines the constellation and interaction of push and pull factors underlying this unprecedented outflow. It also looks at the impacts of this migration on service providers, pre-existing refugee communities, LGBT led organizations and the LGBT rights movements in Uganda and Kenya. The research engaged more than 100 respondents from a broad cross-section of stakeholders. These included LGBT Ugandan asylum seekers in Kenya and abroad; LGBT-led organizations in Uganda, Kenya and the Ugandan diaspora; organizations focused on legal aid, protection and security, and refugee service provision; UNHCR in Kenya; international funders and other actors providing emergency assistance. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive examination of all the contexts in which LGBT Ugandans are seeking refuge. Because the greatest number of LGBT Ugandan forced migrants appears to have sought safety in Kenya, much of the research focused there. Many individuals have fled to other places, particularly in North America and Europe, and some limited information on these situations has been integrated into the report. The findings of the research are intended to inform the individuals and organizations who have been responding or wish to respond to this complex situation; to help strengthen protection mechanisms within Uganda and Kenya; and to support proactive and sustainable interventions to address LGBT forced migration. While the recommendations are focused on the situation related to Uganda, it is hoped that they have relevance to the region more broadly and wherever similar situations may arise.