Thank you for this opportunity that is given to me and Rainbow Heritage Initiative, which is an organization for LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers here in Uganda.
For security reasons, I prefer to be called Witness 1 in this conference room. I'm going to share some challenges we are facing here in Uganda as LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.
Point one of my testimony is about claiming asylum based on gender, identity and sexual orientation. The ability to claim asylum based on gender identity or sex orientation is essential; however, it is a challenge for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees, because if you claim asylum based on your gender or sexual orientation, you risk being arrested immediately.
Currently, our organization has six members from Burundi and Rwanda without asylum documents or refugee status. This issue was shared with UNHCR and OPM, but it is like waiting in vain. As an organization, we are feeling weak and frustrated. We fear there is nothing we can do for our members unless we raise our voices.
It is a huge problem, because for some members if they go to the police, as a starting point, and claim asylum based on gender identity or sexual orientation, they can be arrested immediately. We have tangible examples of some who have been released after being detained. They went back to their home countries, and we don't know if they're still alive or not.
Point two is my personal experience of an LGBTI refugee in Uganda, a transgender man who came from Rwanda. I left my home country in 2010 following a period of detention and torture as a result of being an LGBTI person. I spent four years without a valid document and during that period I had no.... I was not allowed to get refugee I.D. Then I had been sexually and physically assaulted several times by a neighbour. Certainly, I could not report that case, because I had no document that would allow me to report it, and I could have been arrested.
I didn't get any assistance due to that, and I spent more than four years waiting to be resettled. It is not a happy life. There is a time of misery and a painful life.
Point three is about resettlement. In Uganda, we have three durable solutions including voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement. When it comes to voluntary repatriation, it is risky. Members can't go back because they fled violence, persecution and discrimination. They risk being killed.
The second option of a durable solution is local integration, which is totally impossible here in Uganda because of the high level of homophobia that is found everywhere.
The third one, which remains a unique durable solution to rescue LGBTI refugees, is really resettlement.
The government of Uganda and the police are against homosexuality. If humanitarian actors try to help, they are silenced by the government, because if you try to or give any assistance to LGBTI people, it is labelled as promotion of homosexuality.
Let me go quickly to the last point, which is on the recommendations.
The first recommendation is that we are requesting the Canadian Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to talk to the government authorities of Uganda and put pressure on them to change their current practice, because when foreign aid is cut off, they take their frustration out on us, being very homophobic in the name of defending African values.
The second recommendation is to request that the Canadian standing committee put pressure on countries who have missionaries coming to Africa, like religious leaders, for instance, Scott Lively who came and promoted hate in Africa. Even abroad, these people have to obey the laws of the United States. We are requesting Canada to start discussions with the United States to see how this can stop.
The third one is for the standing committee to talk again to OPM and request that LGBTI refugees be granted refugee status. They need to have freedom of rights under the 2006 act, as do other non-LGBTI need to enjoy freedom and their rights.
The last point is to request the Canadian standing committee to talk to different countries and tell them to open the door for LGBTI refugees who are living here in Uganda, because our lives are in danger. We can inform Canada and the UNHCR that it is not safe, and it is like torture to spend more than two years.... Some of us have spent already 10 years and more, and there is risk. At the end, you leave Uganda when you have been harassed, you have been arrested many times, and sometimes people are dying in this way. They leave when their lives have been already affected.
Thank you so much for listening to us.