“We honour the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence. But it’s also a moment to recognise those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies.”
NAIROBI, Kenya – On the 20th of June, Kenyans marked World Refugee Day at the University of Nairobi Graduation Square.
The event was attended by hundreds of refugees, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, senior government officials, UN representatives, diplomats, donors, and the UN Refugee Agency’s partners.
The day was marked days after UNCHR released its annual Global Trends Report, which stated that at the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide – some 300,000 more than a year earlier.
Nyachuol Ruai, a refugee for 20 years addressed the crowd. Nyachuol was born in Gambela, Ethiopia and raised in Kakuma refugee camp in North-Western Region of Kenya. “It has not been easy living here knowing that I have a country. Despite all that, I am not giving up on life because the status of being refugees is not permanent. Peace will prevail in my country and other countries where my fellow refugees come from.”
UNHCR Kenya Country Representative Mr. Raouf Mazou delivered the World Refugee Day statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. The message emphasized on the resilience of refugees and the need to find solutions for them.
“We honour the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence. But it’s also a moment to recognise those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies.” Read the message in part.
The Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Hon. Rtd. Major Gen. Joseph Nkaiserry who graced the event also acknowledged the Kenya for hosting refugees.
While making reference to the day’s theme, #WithRefugees, “This resonates well with the Government’s efforts as we have continued to protect refugees even in the face of social economic challenges.” He added that the theme also resonated well with the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration in September 2016, where world leaders agreed to work towards long term solutions for refugees.
The Cabinet Secretary and UNHCR Kenya Country Representative spoke about the IGAD Special Summit which was held in Nairobi in March this year. During the summit, Governments echoed the need to protect refugees as well as finding durable solutions for the protracted refugee within the region.
The Cabinet Secretary called on partners to support the Government of Kenya in four areas; addressing the root causes of conflict in the region, prioritizing development activities to address poverty eradication in the region, actively supporting refugee hosting countries in order to lessen their burden, and offering support to countries in conflict to solve conflicts peacefully.
“As we support those returning, we will ensure that the process is carried out humanely and in a dignified manner.” He said about the ongoing voluntary returns of Somali refugees.
So far, more than 67,000 refugees have been supported to return home under the programme.
The speakers stressed the need for the international community to continue supporting the region in the management of refugees as well as finding durable solutions for them.
The Kenyan government and people were also thanked for the hospitality throughout the years.
The event was also commemorated with cultural dances from different nationalities as well as Kenyans.
The day served as an important reminder calling on everyone to stand with refugees, ordinary individuals living extraordinary circumstances.
As at the end of May 2017, Kenya was hosting 491,000 refugees and asylum seekers, half whom are women and children.