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.
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.