Biden recovers American dream for Africa’s LGBT + refugees

Nairobi – African LGBT + refugees seeking new life in the United States celebrate Biden-Harris victory

Joe Biden’s election victory has revived the American dream for many African LGBT + refugees who fled home persecution only to disappear in Kenya when President Donald Trump refused them a fresh start in the United States.

Trump will step down in January, with his Democratic successor promising to widen the door for migrants and lead a more LGBT + -friendly government.

Under his presidency, Trump annually lowered the cap on refugee admissions, which culminated in an overall low of 15,000 for the 2021 financial year.

Biden has undertaken to increase the annual admission to refugees to 125,000. He also advocated for the rights of sexual minorities, and raised hopes among LGBT + seekers fleeing discrimination and criminalization in their home countries.

“Many of us have given up on our dreams over the past few years,” said Dhalie, 29, a lesbian who left Uganda in 2016 after suffering a life-threatening condition.

Like hundreds of others, she has relocated to more liberal Kenya, awaiting the prospect of starting anew in the United States.

“With Biden, there’s now a chance to have a life in the US where I’m free (to) study, have a job and love whoever I want.”

Dhalie, who did not want to give her full name, said she was expelled from school in Uganda because she was a lesbian and that she wanted to complete her training as an orthopedic surgeon.

She has been waiting for relocation since 2017.

Criminalized

African countries have some of the world’s most banned laws governing homosexuality. Gay sex is a crime on most of the continent, with penalties ranging from imprisonment to death.

Although gay sex is also punishable in Kenya, the law is rarely enforced and the East African nation is seen as more tolerant, although discrimination still occurs.

There are more than 750 LGBT + refugees in Kenya – mostly from Uganda, but also from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most live in the shade, have no protection and safe housing and may not work.

Craig Paris, executive director of the East African Refugee Coalition, said the Trump administration was idle in many refugee case files, as well as reducing funding for key LGBT + refugee support programs.

In Biden, refugees finally dare to hope, said Paris, a 28-year-old gay social worker from Uganda who has been waiting five years for resettlement.

“There are so many reasons to be hopeful – not just because of Biden’s refugee policy, but also his stance on LGBTQI issues,” he said. “It’s amazing that something that’s happening so far in the US could affect people here in this little corner of Africa.”

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