Germany's fears block Ugandans' trip to safety seminar

Published: February 4, 2015

Colin Stewart
Original Article:

Members of a Ugandan LGBT youth group will have to keep waiting to attend a security training seminar in Germany, due to visa difficulties.

The four-day seminar was organized by the German activist group Helping a Minority in a Minority (HAMIAM) and was initially supposed to include 36 young Ugandans from the  Kampala-based advocacy group Youth on Rock Foundation. It was scheduled for July 4 to 7 last year in Cologne.

“In the beginning of 2014 we had the idea to create a safety seminar to help young gays and lesbians to live safely in Uganda,” explains HAMIAM spokesperson Alexander Cherif. “It was all about strategies for what people could do if they were confronted with violence or if people they knew were confronted with violence. There were self-defence strategies that could save their lives and save other people’s lives.”

“This is training to manage stress, to manage fear,  to handle threats, to try to defuse problems diplomatically and use verbal and nonverbal self-defence techniques,” explains conference organizer Eugene Litvinov. “We had also planned spiritual support…not religious, but psychological. Basically, how do you behave in a crisis situation, and how can you train other people?”

Logo of the German group HAMIAM (Helping a Minority in a Minority)

“We could put up and feed people here, we had all the right insurance, we’d given stipends to the trainers already and they had saved the dates; we invited people for a long weekend,” Cherif explains. “The answer came quickly that the time [to process the applications] was too short. We made it Dec. 19-22. … This time we invited 12 people and all of them got refused again.”

The second refusal came despite supportive words from the German Foreign Office.

According to documents from the German embassy in Kampala obtained by Cherif and reviewed by Erasing 76 Crimes, the activists’ visas were refused because consular officials didn’t think the Ugandans would return home from Germany.

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