Press Release: UNHCR urges Kenya to continue upholding refugee rights, cautions against stigmatizing refugees

Press Releases, 20 December 2012

UNHCR is concerned by the recent security incidents in Kenya which have killed scores of Kenyans as well as refugees. The UN refugee agency condemns these attacks and extends its sympathy and solidarity to all victims, the Kenyan people and their government.

UNHCR has noted recent public statements linking the presence of refugees to these security incidents. We caution against stigmatization of refugees and asylum-seekers.

The UN refugee agency also takes note of the Government's recent decision to discontinue the reception and registration of asylum-seekers in Nairobi and other cities and move these activities to the refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. UNHCR understands that registered refugees will be allowed to remain in the places where they have established themselves.

Recognizing Kenya's long-held commitment to refugee protection, UNHCR urges the Government of Kenya to continue to uphold the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, who have fled to Kenya in search of protection.

UNHCR will continue to support the Government of Kenya in ensuring that asylum-seekers have access to reception and registration procedures, as well as other services to meet their protection and assistance needs. UNHCR counts on the authorities to ensure that adequate land and facilities are made available so that the provision of asylum in Kenya remains in line with international standards.

Kenya, a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, has generously been providing a safe haven for refugees for decades. Currently the country hosts some 630,000 refugees, of whom more than half a million are from neighbouring Somalia.

For further information:

  • In Nairobi: Emmanuel Nyabera on +254 733 99 59 75 or +254 20 423 2120

  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on +41 22 739 8657 or +41 79 200 7617

  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on +41 22 739 8741 or +41 79 557 9120

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UNHCR country pages

The Nubians in Kenya

In the late 1880s, Nubians from Sudan were conscripted into the British army. The authorities induced them to stay in Kenya by granting them homesteads and issuing them British colonial passports. The Nubians named their settlement near Nairobi, Kibra, or "land of forest." In 1917, the British government formally declared the land a permanent settlement of the Nubians. Since independence, Kenyan Nubians have had difficulty getting access to ID cards, employment and higher education and have been limited in their travel. In recent years, a more flexible approach by the authorities has helped ease some of these restric¬tions and most adult Nubians have been confirmed as Kenyan citizens, but children still face problems in acquiring Kenyan citizenship.

The Nubians in Kenya

Somalia Emergency: Refugees move into Ifo Extension

The UN refugee agency has moved 4,700 Somali refugees from the outskirts of Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex into the Ifo Extension site since 25 July 2011. The ongoing relocation movement is transferring 1,500 people a day and the pace will soon increase to 2,500 to 3,000 people per day.

The refugees had arrived in recent weeks and months after fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia. They settled spontaneously on the edge of Ifo camp, one of three existing camps in the Dadaab complex, that has been overwhelmed by the steadily growing influx of refugees.

The new Ifo Extension site will provide tented accommodation to 90,000 refugees in the coming months. Latrines and water reservoirs have been constructed and are already in use by the families that have moved to this site.

Somalia Emergency: Refugees move into Ifo Extension

Running out of space: Somali refugees in Kenya

The three camps at Dadaab, which were designed for 90,000 people, now have a population of about 250,000 Somali civilians, making it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. UNHCR fears tens of thousands more will arrive throughout 2009 in this remote corner of north-east Kenya as the situation in their troubled country deteriorates further.

Resources, such as food and water, have been stretched dangerously thin in the overcrowded camps, with sometimes 400 families sharing one tap. There is no room to erect additional tents and the new arrivals are forced to share already crowded shelters with other refugees.

In early 2009, the Kenyan government agreed to allocate more land at Dadaab to accommodate some 50,000 refugees. View photos showing conditions in Dadaab in December 2008.

Running out of space: Somali refugees in Kenya

Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma Play video

Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma

When Hawa was a child, her father was murdered by rebels and her mother was kidnapped. Later Hawa was jailed and raped. When she was released, she fled to Kenya, where she now lives as a refugee. No one chooses to be a refugee.
Kenya: A Helping HandPlay video

Kenya: A Helping Hand

Heightened insecurity in the world's largest refugee camp has brought about a change among the refugee communities.