For more than a generation, the government and people of Kenya have been generously providing
asylum for hundreds of thousands of refugees from across the region. Few countries in Africa
can claim as flexible and as accommodating an asylum regime as Kenya has made available to
those escaping persecution or war in neighbouring states. Amongst these, Somalis have figured
prominently: for over twenty years, Somali civilians have been fleeing the conflict that has gripped
outside Somalia, is in Dadaab in North Eastern Kenya, a group of five settlements that have been
home to refugees since 1991.
Dadaab is, however, an imperfect safe haven, and its long history of insecurity has been widely
documented. Since they opened, the camps have been the scene of sexual violence, banditry and
attacks on both refugees and humanitarian aid workers. Conditions for the camp residents, and on
the broader macro-political level for refugees across Kenya, have deteriorated considerably in the
past year. Consequently, Somali civilians currently seeking asylum in Kenya are encountering an
increasingly fragile protective environment. During 2011, approximately 150,000 Somalis crossed
the border and sought asylum in Dadaab. This influx has overwhelmed the already stretched
resources of the humanitarian agencies, and worsened the state of overcrowding throughout the
camps. Incidents of violence against police and refugees are on the rise, and levels of protection and
security have been heavily undermined. Registration of new arrivals has been suspended, with the
border and Liboi transit centre still officially closed.
In recent months the Kenyan government has been increasing its public rhetoric around an imminent
return of refugees to Somalia, in light of progress made by the Kenyan military in ‘liberating’ areas
from Al Shabaab control. Although there have been some positive developments inside Somalia,
the situation remains too unstable for a mass repatriation. The report survey also indicates that the
majority of camp residents would not willingly return to Somalia under current circumstances.
These compound threats to the protection of Somali asylum-seekers and refugees come as the
national legal framework on refugee protection, the 2006 Refugees Act, is under review in line
with the new constitutional dispensation. Other structural adjustments in the system of refugee
protection are underway: the Government of Kenya is increasingly assuming responsibilities from
UNHCR, such as reception and registration of refugees and asylum seekers (as from March 2011),
and anticipates assuming refugee status determination in 2013.
From a legal standpoint, Kenya’s obligations towards refugees are clear. Kenya is signatory to the
1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and a range of other international human
rights treaties that describe the basic rights of individuals in need of protection and asylum. Kenya’s
constitution defines the rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by all persons in the country, and
the 2006 Refugees Act domesticates many of the 1951 Convention standards for refugee rights.
However, several of the key provisions of the law have not been applied in practice, and there is still
no comprehensive refugee policy determining their actual implementation.
This report by the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) examines the policy and practice of Kenya’s
refugee protection framework. Although much has been written on the situation in the Dadaab
camps, there has been no holistic examination of the legal and policy backdrop to refugee protection
in Kenya. The purpose of the study, therefore, is to establish the range of rights to which refugees
and asylum-seekers in Kenya are entitled under national law (as well as international and regional
legal frameworks), and to identify and assess the current implementation gaps. The research aims
to examine the key protection priorities for the Somali refugee caseload in Dadaab and on the
migration corridor, and make recommendations to stakeholders on the practical application of the
laws relating to the treatment of refugees.
Read full report in PDF : http://www.rckkenya.org/rokdownloads/docs/Report-Asylum-Under-Threat.pdf