The State initiates action to exclude Kenyans from UNHCR records.
Kenya News Agency
Saturday August 12, 2023
Garissa Township Deputy county commissioner Solomon Chesut addressed the media following a meeting with the sub-county security and intelligence committee /KNA
The government has initiated a new round of screening to remove Kenyan individuals who were included in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) database.
This decision comes after years of desperation, during which they lived in uncertainty.
The massive influx of Somali refugees into the Dadaab refugee camp in the early 1990s coincided with a prolonged drought in North Eastern Kenya, which nearly wiped out the locals’ livestock, their main source of livelihood.
These challenges forced tens of thousands of Kenyans to register as refugees in order to access free rations, education, shelter, and healthcare provided by the UNHCR to the refugees in the camps, as well as the option for third-party repatriation to European countries, among others.
Over 40,000 Kenyans, mostly teenagers, found themselves registered with the UN’s refugee agency but were unable to obtain Kenyan citizenship documentation, leaving them in a legal predicament.
Last week, the Ministry of Interior and National Administration issued a circular to the sub-county Security and Intelligence Committee, authorizing them to evaluate and recommend the removal of Kenyans who had previously registered as refugees.
The circular also provided guidelines for the officials to follow during the screening process.
The affected individuals must be introduced in writing by the local chief, accompanied by a photograph, and must personally appear before the screening committee along with their parents.
“If the affected person’s parents or siblings are deceased, the chief will provide written confirmation of a blood guardian who can vouch for the person’s identity. The blood guardian must also commit on the application forms,” reads the circular.
According to the circular, the affected individuals are required to present acceptable documentary evidence to prove their age and to declare their refugee status number acquired at the refugee camp.
During a meeting with chiefs and human rights defenders in Garissa town, Deputy County Commissioner Solomon Chesut emphasized that the process is free. He cautioned against individuals attempting to exploit the opportunity by soliciting bribes from the public.
Chesut mentioned that they are still awaiting instructions on the exact start date of the process. He indicated that the process will officially commence within the next one or two weeks, with specified timelines.
In January 2022, the government successfully issued identity cards to over 12,000 individuals. A well-known vetting was conducted in late 2019, while a previous attempt in 2016 was unsuccessful.
However, some individuals who underwent the vetting in 2019 are still awaiting their citizenship documentation due to anomalies in the initial document submission.
“For those who have applied, we assure them not to worry because there were some errors which we are rectifying. The sub-county security and Intelligence committee is working to make the necessary corrections, and if individuals are required, they will be summoned,” said the Deputy County Commissioner.
Khasida Abdullahi, a program officer for the Haki Na Sheria Initiative, commended the government’s efforts to resolve the issue of double registration, stating that this group of people has suffered for a long time.
“We appreciate the government for conducting this screening. We understand that these individuals have endured significant hardships simply because they registered with the UNHCR. We hope that this exercise will finally remove all remaining Kenyans from the database,” said Khasida.
She expressed her desire for the government to establish an initiative that allows individuals registered in the UN’s refugee agency database to self-deregister without having to undergo such a screening process.
“We urge all those whose fingerprints are in the UNHCR database to take advantage of this exercise and come forward to deregister themselves,” she said.
She added, “Imagine someone who is unable to use mobile money services or travel or pursue higher education simply because they lack an identity card. As Haki Na Sheria, we are committed to working with all partners to ensure these individuals can live a dignified life.”