Nairobi, 29 April 2020 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed today its concern about a sit-in in front of its office in Kakuma, Kenya, organized by some 60 refugees and asylum seekers citing security concerns and asking to be resettled to a third country. UNHCR reiterated that due to the COVID-19 […]
Nairobi, 29 April 2020 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed today its concern about a sit-in in front of its office in Kakuma, Kenya, organized by some 60 refugees and asylum seekers citing security concerns and asking to be resettled to a third country. UNHCR reiterated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resettlement departures have been temporarily suspended worldwide.
As UNHCR, we support the right of refugees to peaceful and lawful protest. However, given the current situation, we urge the demonstrators to respect restrictions that have been put in place by the Government of Kenya to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health of all refugees and host communities.
UNHCR and partners, together with representatives from the National Police Service and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat, have met twice with the group to understand their concerns and to try to identify and agree with them on ways to resolve this situation.
The group’s general security concerns have been discussed in detail and, among other things, the National Police Service has offered to increase security measures in the area of the Kakuma camp where they reside and has provided a security helpline number through which incidents can be reported 24/7. Individuals within the group who may wish to discuss personal security concerns have also been offered counselling sessions with UNHCR and partner staff.
As of this afternoon, the group has refused to return to their shelters. UNHCR urges them to take advantage of the concrete measures which have been offered to address their security concerns and of resolving the current impasse in a peaceful manner.
UNHCR is also alarmed about the spreading of false information on social media regarding the prevailing situation in Kakuma. We urge all those posting on social media about events or situations related to refugees in Kenya, including individuals residing outside of the country, to verify information and exercise responsibility and care before publishing, including sharing images.
Misinformation and disinformation spreads quickly on social media and any exaggeration or manipulation of facts can create additional tensions and put the most vulnerable refugees at risk. It can also hinder the ability of UNHCR and partners to best provide protection and assistance to almost 500,000 refugees and asylum-seekers currently hosted in Kenya.
The Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement are home to more than 196,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mostly from South Sudan.
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