‘We were so ready’: LGBT refugees in Kenya live in fear as global resettlement is put on hold

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05/26/2020

After four years of waiting, he had the ticket booked: Nairobi, Frankfurt, Toronto. He had fled Uganda’s violent homophobia, survived in neighboring Kenya, where it’s only a little better, and allowed himself to fantasize about what he’d wear when he went out at night in Canada. “Some of us had sold our mattresses, you know. We were so ready,” said Chris Wasswa, who goes by the name Tina and doesn’t care which pronoun is used to refer to him. He’s one of nearly 500 migrants in Kenya, more than 3,000 across Africa and 10,000 worldwide —­ the vast majority of whom are refugees —­ whose approved resettlement to third countries has been put on indefinite hold by the coronavirus, according to the International Organization for Migration, or IOM. Once a country approves a refugee’s resettlement, the IOM — part of the United Nations — controls their travel. It suspended those processes on March 17. For some refugees who were on the verge of travel, it’s a relatively minor blip after years of trauma — just a few more months appended to years of waiting. For others, such as gay and transgender Ugandan refugees in Kenya, the delay comes with immediate risks.

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