A 29 year-old Ethiopian refugee named Girma (name changed for anonymity) has been living in Nairobi, Kenya for over five years. Though he graduated from Kenyatta University in Nairobi with a Masters in Economics in 2010, Girma has been facing challenges in his job search. Many young people entering the job market will sympathize with the fact that employment is hard to find.
But Girma’s story is different – he has been facing discrimination in hiring just because he is a refugee.
During our interview, Girma noted that many potential employers both within the private sector and the government are not interested in hiring refugee graduates. In fact, he was explicitly told in a recent interview that the organization simply didn’t offer jobs to refugees. Girma added,
“even though Kenya’s economy is a developing one . . . there should at least be a legitimate ground for refugees to assert their right to work.”
For many refugees residing in the urban regions of Kenya, business cannot be run as usual. As the High Court case of Kituo Cha Sheria v. Attorney General remains underway, members from the urban refugee community in Nairobi reported to Asylum Access that they fear participating in society as usual while their right to work and move freely outside refugee camps hang in the balance.
As previously reported by Asylum Access, the Kenyan government issued a directive in late 2012 and again in early 2013 to force all urban refugees to relocate to the already overcrowded refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma. Reports from human rights organizations emerged soon after the directive’s announcement, stating that as a result of the policies, refugees in Kenya’s urban centers, particularly those in Somali enclaves, had been subjected to a wide range of abuses, including police harassment, violence, discrimination, bribery and arbitrary detention. Local NGO Kituo Cha Sheria challenged the policies before the High Court, and on 23 January, the Court issued provisional orders to halt the implementation of the policy.
Asylum Access has been closely following a landmark case before the High Court of Kenya that will make a determination regarding the fundamental rights of all urban refugees in the country.
The case, which is scheduled to commence mid-March, will determine the validity of a policy recently issued by the Kenyan Government requiring all urban refugees to move from urban residences to overcrowded refugee camps. The policy is said to violate both Kenya’s Constitution and International Law, interfering with a refugee’s fundamental right to freedom of movement, work, education and family. In short, the directive, unless invalidated by the High Court, will stifle a refugee’s chance to live a normal life and be self-sufficient.
“We needed to seek asylum somewhere where there was peace. Tanzania was the closest country. But to live, we need something to live, somewhere to sleep. We didn’t come with anything like money,” says Lwenga, a Congolese refugee in Dar es Salaam. He tells this to me as he explains why he, other Congolese and Tanzanians are working together in a small soap-making business.
It’s not an easy business. Lwenga and Esale—another refugee—must take several kilos of the boiled fruit of the oil palm tree and press them in what they call a “local machine” to extract the oil. This takes two men and several hours. “With this machine,” says Lwenga, “it takes the whole day. You arrive, start extracting and then you can work until night.”
Our clients have told us repeatedly, to have work is to have life. However, refugees are still denied access to self-employment, wage earning employment and legal protections around the world. In addition, there is very little research to help us understand the practical barriers to refugee employment. In the coming months, Asylum Access will begin organizing a global advocacy plan, starting with issuing a survey to better understand these barriers. Armed with this information, Asylum Access, along with partners and coalition members, will start working toward practical solutions for refugees seeking self-sufficiency around the world.
Originally published on the Asylum Access website. See original here.
By: Jessica Therkelsen, Global Policy Director, Asylum Access
The Kenyan government’s decision this week to force all refugees to leave urban centers and report to camps violates human rights and represents a backslide in the government’s approach to urban refugees.
Host to nearly 700,000 refugees, Kenya has since 2006 implemented laws and policies that increasingly improve compliance with international human rights standards. Urban refugees have enjoyed legal status, access to employment, opportunity, and services outside of camps. Following recent attacks in Nairobi attributed to al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group, Kenya is now citing national security in its decision to send nearly 100,000 people to overcrowded and dangerous camps.
Under the new measure, these refugees will be forced to leave their rebuilt lives for internment in a camp with no access to freedom of movement and serious security risks.
Christian Pangilinan is the Georgetown Fellow and a Volunteer Legal Advocate at Asylum Access Tanzania. This post draws from a paper he presented at the African Conference on International Law on October 5, 2012 on the “Potential of the African Court on Creating a Binding Regional Framework for Refugee Protection.”
By Christian Pangilinan
As Marina Sharpe explained earlier on this blog, refugees in Africa are entitled to social and economic rights under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. These include a right to wage-earning employment that is equal to that of other foreign nationals lawfully resident in a country, a right to engage in agriculture and industry on terms no less favorable than resident aliens, as well as various welfare rights.
Although the 1969 OAU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa did not expressly guarantee these rights, the 1969 Convention does identify itself as the regional complement of the 1951 Convention and its acknowledgment that the 1951 Convention as the “basic and universal instrument relating to the status of refugees” (Sharpe presents two other arguments in her blog post).
Adina Appelbaum is a second year joint MPP/JD student at Georgetown University. She spent a year in Cairo, Egypt as a Fulbright Fellow providing legal aid to refugees who had fled from Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan. Adina has also worked with refugee issues at Asylum Access Ecuador and at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
By Adina Appelbaum
On May 30, 2012, the Ecuadorian government adopted Decreto 1182, a new restrictive decree that has replaced the previous policies regarding the refugee status determination process (RSD) in Ecuador. Decreto 1182 represents a great setback for refugee rights in Ecuador, as the law no longer includes a provision to accept refugees under the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984, which until recently has provided protection to thousands of Colombians fleeing violence. Under the new decree, asylum seekers now have only 15 business days to apply for status in Ecuador after entering the country and three to five days to submit an appeal for a negative decision. Additionally, refugees who are considered ilegitimas, or illegitimate, are now excluded from the process.
In a recent article in the Bangkok Post, Human Rights Watch’s Policy Director, Bill Frelick argues for an expanded approach to refugee policy in Thailand – one that would allow refugees the freedom to move, work and rebuild their lives outside of camp structures.
Frelick’s piece focuses in on the desperation refugees can face after years spent with no freedom of movement, access to education or job training. In contrast, he challenges the Thai government to adopt fair and transparent systems that would legalize the refugee population, and allow for personal development.
You can find the entire article posted here.
By: Anna Chen.
In a home virtually empty of furniture, Maria* shows me the wood boards lying among sawdust, glue, paint and work tools. Donning a white face mask, she squats down and begins to saw at a board. These are the first steps of making what will become large wooden mirror frames, a craft she learned from the internet. Each takes several hours to complete, including embellishing the frames with ornate golden decorations. But this is the easy bit.
Maria tells me the most difficult part is getting people to buy them off the streets of Quito, where she peddles them for about USD10 apiece. With modest profit margins, Maria must sell dozens to feed her family of four every month.