Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Kenya

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Kenya , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc48a2.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kenya hosted approximately 220,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002, including more than 140,000 from Somalia, nearly 70,000 from Sudan, some 10,000 from Ethiopia, and more than 1,000 from other countries.

Approximately 20,000 new refugees and asylum seekers fled to Kenya during 2002, primarily from Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Some 15,000 Kenyans were newly uprooted during 2002. An estimated 230,000 Kenyans were internally displaced at year's end.

More than 2,000 Kenyans were seeking asylum in various Western countries.

Refugee Protection

Kenya is a party to the UN Refugee Convention, but has no refugee law; consequently, the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya have no legal status.

The Kenyan government's Refugee Eligibility Commission remained dormant during 2002. Absent a functioning governmental refugee office, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managed refugee status determination procedures and refugee assistance and protection matters.

Kenyan authorities required most refugees to live in three designated camps near the village of Dadaab in the country's remote east, and in three camps known as Kakuma in northwest Kenya.

At the end of 2002, more than 140,000 refugees lived in the Dadaab camps, and nearly 70,000 resided in the Kakuma camps.

Tens of thousands of additional refugees continued to live without humanitarian assistance in urban areas, particularly in the capital, Nairobi. Government authorities asserted that more than 100,000 "illegal immigrants" lived in Kenya's main cities and towns. UNHCR provided limited humanitarian assistance to some 15,000 refugees who resided in Nairobi.

Kenyan police arrested nearly 1,000 persons that they characterized as "illegal immigrants" during the year, including several hundred refugees and asylum seekers officially registered with UNHCR.

Unknown assailants murdered two Rwandan refugee children and injured their mother in a nighttime attack at a UNHCR-administered refugee center in Nairobi in April. The refugee mother reportedly was a relative of a former Rwandan government official, but the motive for the attack remained unknown.

"Urban refugees have no option but to sleep on the streets or in unsafe shelters, leaving them vulnerable to violence and illness," Human Rights Watch reported in November.

Poor security conditions in and around the Dadaab and Kakuma camps deteriorated during 2002. Increased tensions among refugees, and hostile interaction between refugees and the local population, endangered the lives of refugees and aid workers.

Kenyan authorities deployed 200 police officers to help reduce security threats and other incidents at Dadaab and Kakuma. Accidents rendered nearly half of the UNHCR-donated police vehicles inoperable. Separate acts of violence killed some 30 camp-based refugees during the year.

Domestic and sexual violence against females remained a chronic problem in and around the Dadaab and Kakuma camps. Numerous programs to address sexual violence helped reduce rape incidents during the year, according to UN aid agencies.

More than 80 percent of all rapes occurred while females collected firewood and building material outside the camps.

A UNHCR program to supply firewood to refugee families – to help protect women and girls from dangerous forays into isolated areas – suffered serious setbacks during the year.

An alleged pricing disagreement between UNHCR and local firewood suppliers spiraled into clashes between suppliers and police near Kakuma and left several Kenyans dead in July.

Firewood shortages and funding constraints forced UNHCR to reduce its distributions for the remainder of the year. UNHCR's firewood-distribution program supplied less than one-third of families' household fuel needs.

Hundreds of Kenyans claiming that aid organizations hired refugees over local citizens stormed the Dadaab camps in June, damaging several vehicles. Police dispersed the protestors.

Refugees from Somalia

Most Somali refugees fled from southern and central Somalia to Kenya during the early 1990s to escape civil war and famine.

More than 140,000 refugees, prevented from returning home by Somalia's continued violence and political instability, remained in Kenya at year's end.

During 2002, inter-clan violence in southwestern Somalia pushed some 10,000 new refugees into northeastern Kenya.

Despite requests from UNHCR and international humanitarian agencies, Kenyan authorities initially required the refugees to remain in an unsafe location less than a half-mile (1 km) from the Somalia border.

Stray bullets from renewed fighting near the encampment killed four refugees and wounded several others in May. Nearly 20 refugees – primarily children – residing near the border died from diseases and malnutrition.

Under pressure from Somali clan elders and Kenyan authorities, more than half of the population returned home in late May without UNHCR assistance. Of those who remained, UNHCR transferred more than 3,000 to the Dadaab camps.

The majority of Somali refugees lived in the three Dadaab camps in North Eastern Province near the Kenya-Somalia border. Confined to the isolated camps – situated in a harsh, desert-savannah region lacking natural resources – most refugees had virtually no opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency and were entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.

Poor donor funding forced the World Food Program (WFP) to reduce refugees' normal daily food rations by approximately 25 percent during most of 2002. More than 8,000 refugee children and hundreds of pregnant refugees suffered from malnutrition, a UN survey revealed.

UNHCR budget constraints continued to compromise refugee-assistance programs. Funding shortages forced UNHCR to limit its distribution of non-food items to fewer than 2,000 refugees in Dadaab. More than 110 students typically crowded into a single classroom.

Heavy rains in May destroyed more than 1,000 shelters, temporarily displaced some 400 refugees, and ruined the main road used to deliver humanitarian supplies to Dadaab. UNHCR budget shortfalls delayed repairs to the road.

Nearly 4,000 Somali refugees registered with UNHCR for assistance to repatriate voluntarily to relatively peaceful northern Somalia. Fewer than 300 Somalis actually repatriated, however. Budget constraints forced UNHCR to postpone additional repatriations.

UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration relocated some 12,000 ethnic Somali Bantu refugees from the Dadaab camps to Kakuma in preparation for eventual permanent resettlement abroad as part of an international resettlement program.

Refugees from Sudan

Civil war in Sudan pushed nearly 14,000 new Sudanese refugees into Kenya during 2002. Some 70,000 Sudanese refugees were in Kenya at year's end, the overwhelming majority in the three Kakuma camps in northwest Kenya, about 75 miles (125 km) from the Sudan border.

Most Sudanese refugees have lived in the remote Kakuma camps for more than a decade. Despite progress toward peace in Sudan during 2002, persistent violence diminished renewed prospects for large-scale repatriation.

Kenyan authorities confined Sudanese refugees to the Kakuma camps. Restrictions on refugees' movements and lack of land for agriculture severely limited refugees' ability to earn income or reach a level of self-sufficiency, rendering them solely dependant on humanitarian aid for survival.

Less than 7 percent of the Sudanese refugee population engaged in economic activities during the year. Working refugees earned the equivalent of less than $1 per day.

Lack of donor funding forced WFP to reduce refugees' normal daily food ration by approximately 25 percent during most of 2002. Some families failed to receive proper rations because of registration problems and Kakuma's poorly managed and maintained food distribution centers.

Fewer than 40 percent of Sudanese families ate more than two meals per day, according to aid workers.

During 2002, humanitarian assistance workers and refugees rehabilitated more than 1,000 homes damaged by heavy rains during 2001 and constructed some 1,000 new homes.

Most of the shelters remained roofless because of UNHCR funding constraints, however.

The continual influx of Sudanese refugees during 2002 added to overcrowding in classrooms at the Kakuma camps, where more than 23,000 students attended 21 primary schools. Some 3,000 refugees attended secondary and vocational training schools.

UNHCR repaired 50 classrooms to accommodate the camp's growing school-aged population.

Successive years of severe drought and a poor water distribution network continued to cause water shortages throughout the Kakuma camps.

Refugees received approximately three gallons (10 liters) of water for their daily needs, including bathing, cooking, drinking, and clothes washing – or about half the daily recommended amount, according to humanitarian agencies.

"Unfortunately, refugee assistance operations in Kakuma are facing dwindling international support because of factors such as occurrence of new emergencies and donor fatigue triggered by the protracted nature of the problem," Action By Churches Together, an international relief agency, reported in December.

Some 700 Sudanese refugees departed Kenya and resettled in the United States during 2002 as part of a formal international resettlement program. Approximately 50 were Sudanese boys and young men known as the "lost boys" of Sudan because many of them had been separated from their families for nearly a decade.

More than 3,000 Sudanese have resettled in the United States during the past three years as part of the program.

Refugees from Ethiopia

Some 10,000 Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers lived in Kenya at the end of 2002, including about 2,000 in the Dadaab camps and about 2,000 in the Kakuma camps.

More than 5,000 Ethiopians applied for refugee status with UNHCR during 2002.

Internally Displaced Kenyans

Violence has displaced up to 400,000 people in eastern, western, and northern Kenya during the past decade. In most cases, political discontent, simmering land disputes, and ethnic tensions were at the root of Kenya's domestic conflicts.

The Kenyan government's Presidential Commission on the Ethnic Clashes concluded nearly a year of hearings into the country's violent population displacement in 1999 and submitted a report to then President Daniel arap Moi.

After years of delay, the Kenyan government finally released the report publicly in October 2002. The report confirmed that "prominent ruling party politicians have fueled multiple incidents of so-called ethnic clashes in Kenya since 1991" by inciting mobs to seize land from perceived political opponents. The government failed to announce any formal action on the report's findings.

Many internally displaced families surrendered their land titles under duress during the 1990s, and sought shelter in towns and cities. The government then seized and nationalized their land. Most displaced Kenyans were rural farmers and herders ill-equipped to provide for their families in urban areas.

Pockets of violence and actions by the Kenyan government caused an estimated 15,000 additional Kenyans to flee their homes during 2002. In March, local authorities demolished more than 1,000 makeshift shelters in and around the coastal town of Mombasa, displacing an estimated 7,000 people.

Most displaced families sought temporary shelter in churches and mosques and survived with minimal humanitarian assistance. Many remained homeless at year's end.

Raids by cattle-rustlers in Kenya's Central Province killed 15 people and displaced more than 3,000 others in September. Most of the newly uprooted people feared further violence and refused pleas from authorities to return home.

A local church provided some 200 families with temporary shelter and food. Most others camped near government buildings and received limited humanitarian assistance.

Unknown assailants razed several houses and crops near the village of Migori in southwest Kenya's Nyanza Province in December, displacing nearly 3,000 people.

Many of the displaced continued to reside in temporary camps and with relatives at the end of 2002.

Relatively peaceful nationwide elections produced a new Kenyan president in 2002. In December, voters elected Mwai Kibaki, an opposition party candidate who replaced the president of 24 years, Daniel arap Moi.

The elections proceeded without any of the large-scale violence that marred presidential elections in 1992 and 1997.

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