The Kenya refugee operation will continue to be marked by the political developments and humanitarian situation in the region, mainly in its two main refugee producing countries i.e. Somalia and South Sudan. In Somalia, despite the moderate gains made in the past two years, the humanitarian situation in 2018 is expected to remain fragile, with over some 24.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya originate from Somalia (54.5%). Other major nationalities are South Sudanese (24.4%), Congolese (8.8%); Ethiopians (5.9%). Persons of concern from other nationalities including Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, Uganda and others make up 6.4 % of the total population (471,724,088 as at the end of December 2018) . Almost half of the refugees in Kenya (44%) reside in Dadaab, 40% in Kakuma and 16% in urban areas (mainly Nairobi), alongside 18,500 stateless persons.
Political developments and the humanitarian situation in the region will continue to impact upon the Kenya Operation in 2019, mainly as a result of the situations in the two main refugee producing countries of Somalia and South Sudan, but also the ongoing unrest in Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is anticipated that the political situation in Ethiopia will be stable and current limited influx of asylum seekers will be of short duration. Kenya will therefore continue to be among the top refugee hosting countries in Africa. UNHCR continued advocacy on behalf of stateless persons is expected to result in the GOK registering 3,500 Shona people in 2019 and 4,000 Pemba people in 2020, thus reducing stateless persons to 15,000 in 2019 and 11,000 in 2020.
Since late 2013, the security situation in Kenya was adversely affected following several terrorist attacks for which the Somalia-based Al Shabaab group claimed responsibility. It was agreed that more should be done in Somalia to make return and reintegration sustainable. A conference was held in Brussels in October 2015 to seek support for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees and their reintegration in Somalia.
82,925 Somalis have been assisted by UNHCR and partners to voluntarily return to Somalia between December 2014 and 30 September 2018. In addition, the results of a joint 2016 verification of the population in Dadaab reflected an overall population reduction by some 60,000 individuals. 69,811 individuals within the verified numbers expressed willingness to return to their country of origin. The exercise also resulted in the identification of 40,454 cases of double registration (persons who either possess a Kenyan ID card or are on record as having applied for one).
Voluntary repatriation will continue in 2019 for Somalis and other nationalities, if the situation permits in the countries of origin.
The 6 May 2016 decision by the Government of Kenya to close Dadaab camps and disband the Department for Refugee Affairs (DRA) has significantly impacted the overall operational environment in Dadaab. The Government cited security, environmental and economic burdens as the reason for this decision. An initial deadline for the closure of Dadaab established by the Government of 30 November 2016, led to anxiety amongst the refugees and international community.
Following a meeting of the joint taskforce overseeing the repatriation in November 2017, the Government of Kenya extended the deadline by six months while continuing to maintain that the returns would be conducted in a safe and humane manner under the auspices of the Tripartite Agreement (2013).
A caretaker secretariat for refugee management, Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) has been put in place and is expected to fully take over refugee management in the country. The review of the Refugee Act 2006 and the finalization of a National Refugee Policy is ongoing with the support of members of the Kenya Parliamentary Human Rights Association (KEPHRA). Great progress was made in 2016 with the draft bill being presented on two occasions to the National Parliament. UNHCR will continue to provide input through the established legal mechanisms and work with national partners in order to ensure that refugee policy is in line with international law and statutes.
Meanwhile, asylum fatigue and the security situation dominate the discussions. It is however expected that the new bill will show improvements in terms of refugee’s participation in the economic life and interactions with the host communities.
The operation works with the assumption that, the situation in Central and Southern Somalia will continue to allow voluntary repatriation and reintegration with no major further deterioration. For these reasons, the planning figure for voluntary return to Somalia is 10,000 in 2019. It is also expected to see, in the course of 2019 more than 30,000 new arrivals. The majority of these new arrivals will be from South Sudan, Congo (DRC), Burundi and South Sudan. This assumption is based on the geopolitical situation in the regional and trends. Considering the current capacity of the operation to process resettlement cases, it is projected that about 4465 refugees, will be proposed for resettlement in 2019.
The verification exercise was completed in Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi. The exercise will also be conducted in other urban sites (a first for the operation). The verification exercise will allow to confirm the actual population of concern in Kenya and enhance protection and programme solutions.
The UNHCR Kenya Operation data and figures can be found here.