Kenya urged to ratify pact on statelessness

September 16, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 16 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Kenya should ratify the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

UNHCR Assistant Representative for Protection Louise Aubin said this would help to improve the livelihoods of the refugees living in Kenya.

"What\’s the common denominator between refugees, stateless people, IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons)? It is actually ensuring that people can have protection and can be availed of it from a State," she said. "This is a fundamental right for any human being."

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in August 1961 but many countries are yet to ratify it and domesticate it.

"Few States have signed or ratified the conventions dealing with statelessness. In Kenya, we are dealing with the best case set scenario, an inclusive set of legislation, inclusive society and the promotion of rights," she said.

She explained that the rights of most people termed as stateless are often violated thus limiting their enjoyment of the various provisions available to other Kenyans. 

Her sentiments follow a report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) that revealed that 100,000 people in Kenya might be stateless. According to the study, these are people not recognised as citizens as a result of failure to be registered at birth or other procedural difficulties.

Lead researcher Edwin Abuya said that the situation is felt more in border districts of the country, and is making life difficult for those affected.

"It\’s easier for us to move around Kenya. No issues are raised about it. However, for stateless people, it is a big issue," he said. "It is a very big deal just traveling about 100 kilometers because you do not have your ID and the police know that …so they put these roadblocks and flash people out just based on ID."

He however lauded the vetting committee set up by the government to ensure that people who reside in the country are legal citizens.

"Quite a number of us may not have gone through the vetting committee when we applied to get an ID. But for people who live in border districts, it is a big issue since they have to go through the vetting committee," he said. "It (committee) essentially decides who gets in and who gets out."

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights however decried the means used by the vetting committee to determine the citizenship of stateless people.

Chairperson Florence Jaoko said that the procedure used is cumbersome and at times results in people not getting their identification documents.

She termed the process as discriminatory saying that it made life difficult for those affected.

"It is discriminatory the way the vetting is done, so it makes it is extremely difficult for some communities. You really have to go back to the village and get the people who know you," Ms Jaoko said.

"You have to get your great grandfather\’s ID and some of those people were not even registered," she added. "If you cannot get an ID card or a passport, you cannot define yourself since you don\’t have that citizenship documentation so you cannot access a lot of things," she said.

"Some of them are Kenyan citizens but it’s very difficult for them to get identification."



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