The Kenya refugee operation will continue to be marked by the political developments and humanitarian situation in the region, mainly in its two main countries where refugees fled i.e. Somalia and South Sudan. In Somalia, despite the moderate gains made in the past three years, the humanitarian situation in 2022 is expected to remain fragile, with over some 24.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Most refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya originate from Somalia (53%). Other major nationalities are South Sudanese (25%), Congolese (10%), and Ethiopians (5.6%). Persons of concern from other nationalities, including Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, Uganda and others, make up 6.9 % of the total population (550,817 as of April 2022). Almost half of the refugees in Kenya (43%) reside in Dadaab, 41% 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 the Kenya Operation in 2022, mainly due to the situations in the two countries, Somalia and South Sudan, and the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is anticipated that the political situation in Ethiopia will also remain fragile. Currently, Kenya continues to be among the top refugee-hosting countries in Africa. UNHCR continued advocacy on behalf of stateless persons is expected to result in the Government of Kenya (GOK) registering the Shona and Pemba communities in 2022.
86,708 Somalis have been assisted by UNHCR and partners to voluntarily return to Somalia between December 2014 and 30 April 2022. In addition, 1,024 Burundian and 761 Ethiopian refugees returned home from Kenya in 2021.
Voluntary repatriation will continue in 2022 for Somalis and other nationalities if the situation permits in the countries of origin.
The March 2021 decision by the Government of Kenya to close refugee camps significantly impacted the overall operational environment in Dadaab and Kakuma. 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 in June 2022 led to anxiety amongst the refugees and the international community.
Meanwhile, the Government of Kenya gazetted and published the Refugees Act, 2021, on 23 November 2021, and the law came into effect on 22 February 2022, 90 days from the date of enactment.
The passage of the new Act provides more opportunities, rights, protection and solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya and is in line with Kenya’s commitments under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and other international and regional instruments. Many provisions of the new Act also complement the objectives of the Roadmap for Solutions developed jointly by the Government of Kenya and UNHCR.
Supporting the Government in the implementation of the Refugees Act, 2021 will be a key priority for UNHCR in 2022. The Government has established a committee to review the Act to contribute to the development of new Refugee Regulations, and as co-chair of this committee, UNHCR will engage closely with relevant partners to ensure that the Regulations meet international standards of refugee protection and support the Government in meeting its national, regional and international obligations.
The verification exercise was completed in 2021 in Dadaab, Kakuma, and Nairobi. The result of the verification exercise will allow us 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.