Justice prevailed on Friday as the High Court of Kenya quashed the Government’s encampment directive, ruling in favor of fundamental freedoms and dignity for urban refugees.
The government directive was first announced in December 2012 and again in January 2013 and, if implemented, would have required all refugees residing in urban areas to relocate to Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. In short, the policy would have devastated the lives of urban refugees in Kenya, forcing them to abandon the homes they had resided in for years (some even decades), separate from loved ones and sever all ties to businesses and communities.
The directive was challenged on the basis that it violated fundamental freedoms enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution, the Refugee Act, 1996 and a number of other international human rights instruments. The High Court agreed.
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.
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.
By Penelope Mathew
Professor Penelope Mathew is the Freilich Foundation professor at the Australian National University. Prior to this role, Professor Mathew was a visiting professor and the Director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law at the University of Michigan Law School.
In many countries, the bona fides of refugees and asylum-seekers is questioned. It is asserted that the narrow exception to states’ powers over immigration established by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (‘Refugee Convention’) is abused by persons seeking economic advancement. Some believe that refugees and asylum-seekers are taking something that does not belong to them; that they are getting special treatment; and that citizens are the losers as a result.