News / Africa

Rights of Kenya’s Refugees Need to be Upheld

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Dadaab, Kenya map
Dadaab, Kenya map

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Kim Lewis
The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said it urges Kenya to continue to uphold the rights of refugees and asylum seekers who have fled the country in search of protection.  The agency expressed concern over recent security incidents in Kenya in which scores of Kenyans and refugees had been killed, and it notes recent public statements linking the presence of refugees to these security incidents. The agency said it also cautions against stigmatizing refugees and asylum-seekers.

To help improve the security situation of refugees, the UNHCR said it has been in discussions with the Kenyan government to move some of its activities, such as reception and registration, from Nairobi and other cities to the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

“What I would say is first of all the government and the people of Kenya have been extremely supportive of the plight of refugees.  Kenya is hosting more than 600,000 refugees in the two camps, Dadaab and Kakuma.  But, what happens in most cases is that killed refugees are the ones who had developed coping mechanisms - who would rather stay in urban areas.  But, the directive that was given by the government the other day is that they should go into the camp,” explained Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesperson for the UNHCR, in Nairobi. 

The UNHCR and Kenya’s government have had recent meetings to try and improve the security of the refugees.  “We have had two meetings already to take care of the interest of refugees and rights of refugees, and also take care of the concerns of the government,” added Nyabera.

One of the changes that can be expected is the moving of the reception and registration of asylum-seekers from Nairobi and other cities to the refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. 

“If we have more people coming into the camps, then definitely we’ll have challenges in terms of shelter, in terms of sanitation, in terms of health facilities and all,” Nyabera points out. 

Consultations between the UNHCR and Kenya’s government will continue, and Nyabera said the UNHCR will continue to support the government in terms of vehicles and communication devices.

Regarding the concern and caution against stigmatization of refugees and asylum-seekers, Nyabera said it is important to note that not all refugees coming into the camps are coming in with security issues. 

“Most of them are coming in because they can’t stay in countries where they are coming from," he said.  "We are also discussing and submitting information to refugees so that we they are aware they have to obey the laws of the land of the asylum country.”

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