UNHCR opposes Kenya move to push refugees out of towns


A file picture taken on August 8, 2011 shows Turkana women and children waiting for supplimentary feeding for infants at a relief and health centre in Kakuma, Turkana District, northwestern Kenya. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has opposed the decision by the government of Kenya to stop registration of refugees in urban areas.

The UNHCR said the government made a hurried decision without considering the rights of the refugees in Kenya.

“We feel that the decision reached by the government was rushed, we are still negotiating with them to take steps that will both ensure security but also protect the rights of refugees,” said Emmanuel Nyabera , the UNHCR spokesman on refugees.

After meeting with the UNHCR officials on Friday and Monday over the matter, the government proceeded to stop the registration of refugees in urban areas and directed that the process be done only in refugee camps.

The directive also wanted the UNHCR to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas. Of the estimated 1.1 million total number of refugees in Kenya, 735,800 are assisted by the UNHCR.

The government ordered the close down of all urban registration centres and declared that all asylum seeker be registered only in refugee camps in a move to boost security.

Mr Nyabera says the UNHCR provides services such as registration of refugees in urban areas, provision of healthcare support to dispensaries that serve refugees in urban areas. He says these services have not been stopped but negotiations with the government are ongoing.

He says the inflow of refugees to Kenya from Somalia have gone down after the military incursion into Somalia by Kenyan forces made movement difficult.

“The government of Kenya has decided to stop reception, registration and close down of all registrations centres in urban areas with immediate effect,” said the acting Commissioner for the Department Refugee Affairs Badu Katelo in a press statement.