U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Kenya



Refoulement/Asylum  The Government refouled one Rwandan man and four Ethiopian children who sought asylum at the Nairobi airport. Authorities deported the Ethiopians without granting them the opportunity to present their claims to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and deported the Rwandan while UNHCR was still adjudicating his claim. The Government nearly refouled 28 Sudanese refugees in the northern Kakuma region but allowed them to stay after UNHCR intervened. In November, the Sudan Tribune, reported that immigration officials denied entrance at the border to over 20 Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, coming from Uganda. According to UNHCR, the Government viewed Uganda as a safe country of asylum and commonly denied entrance to refugees from there. The Government, in conjunction with UNHCR, recognized about 2,400 Sudanese and 2,300 Somali as prima facie refugees.

Kenya had no refugee or asylum law. In March, a government commission presented a draft constitution, which would have established the right to seek asylum and protection from refoulement, but Parliament failed to pass it. Until about 1993, the Government conducted individual refugee status determinations but delegated the task to UNHCR ever since.

Detention  The Government detained and prosecuted refugees and asylum seekers for illegal entry. The police extorted bribes from refugees and conducted massive searches for illegal immigrants in places of business and low-income neighborhoods.

Refugees in the camps received ration cards but no other identification.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  Under the 1967 Immigration Act, refugees along with other foreigners had to obtain a permit to work, trade, or engage in professions. The Government granted permits only if there was no qualified national available for the position. Working without a permit or hiring someone without one was a criminal act. In the camps, many refugees earned money by collecting wood, making handicrafts, or herding livestock. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) commonly hired refugees, but UNHCR in conjunction with the Government placed a ceiling on refugee wages.

Many refugees left the camps without permission and ran businesses, traded, or worked in the informal sector. In Nairobi, many found work within the immigrant Ethiopian and Somali communities. Kenyan law denied refugees the right to own property.

The Government continued to renew work permits under more relaxed standards to thousands of refugees it recognized before 1993. Most of these refugees lived in Nairobi.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The Government required nearly all refugees to live in several camps in the Kakuma and Dadaab regions. At year's end, the total camp population was about 218,000. At least 20,000 refugees resided without permission outside of the camps, primarily in Nairobi; but only those granted status before 1993 did so legally.

There was no law or decree authorizing the Government's camp confinement policy. The 1973 Alien Restriction Act authorized the Government to "requir[e] aliens to reside and remain within certain places or districts," but allowed the exercise of this power only in times of war or "imminent danger or great emergency."

Refugees who did not have valid travel authorization risked detention and prosecution for unlawful presence under the 1967 Immigration Act. According to UNHCR, the Government rarely prosecuted refugees for violating camp restrictions and generally released refugees who identified themselves as such after confirmation with UNHCR. An independent NGO representing 16 individuals charged with unlawful presence, however, visited the prisons and found that more than 90 percent of detained refugees were held under this charge, often for long periods awaiting trial. Corrupt police and local authorities sometimes detained and extracted bribes even from those with travel documents.

UNHCR issued about 4,000 travel passes to refugees who needed to leave the camps for medical, educational, security, or other exceptional reasons. Outside the camps, UNHCR provided assistance mainly to those released for medical purposes.

Public Relief and Education The Government and international agencies provided refugees in camps with food, water, education, healthcare, and other basic services. Although the World Food Programme maintained rations at proper levels, chronic and acute malnutrition remained high in the camps. More than a third of the refugees in Kakuma did not have sufficient clean water due to overcrowding. However, infant, child, and maternal mortality rates improved. In urban areas, UNHCR provided medical assistance, some educational scholarships, and assistance for groups it deemed vulnerable. Only refugees granted status before 1993 could legally attend public schools. Some refugee children received schooling from churches and NGOs in Nairobi. The Government did not restrict aid agencies' access to refugees.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  There were about 230,000 IDPs in Kenya. During the previous decade, most had fled violent ethnic and land conflicts that, according to a 2002 government commission, the Government pitted groups against each other and incited mobs to seize land. During the year, there were isolated reports of rapes, arbitrary arrests, and detention, but no major conflicts causing significant displacement. The Government estimated that there were only 10,000 IDPs.

USCRI counted IDPs who could not return home due to fear of persecution, conflict, or violence but not those who resettled elsewhere or had only property-based claims.

International and national aid agencies provided little direct assistance to IDPs. Most lived in urban areas, surviving in informal settlements with limited sanitation, clean water, or food. The Government did not restrict IDPs' right to work or freedom of movement, and IDPs could attend schools.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants


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