, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – The High Court has quashed a government directive requiring the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to stop the registration of refugees in urban areas.
The government had directed the process be done only in refugee camps.
While making the ruling, Justice David Majanja said Kenya has an obligation to ensure that the rights and freedom of refugees are protected.
He further stated that the Constitution had a provision for the protection of the rights of refugees.
“I find and hold that government directive which targets refugees and asylum seekers in urban centres is a threat to their right to movement enshrined in Article 26 of the 1951 Convention as read with section 16 of the Act,” he ruled.
He indicated that the State had not demonstrated that refugees in urban areas are the main source of insecurity.
“The application of the policy of closure of registration centres in urban centres has deleterious effects of the rights and fundamental of urban refugees in several ways. New arrivals have nowhere to report their intention to apply for asylum or seek refugee status and if they do, the process is burdensome taking into account the vulnerability.”
He stated that those whose identification documents have expired or are about to expire are put to great costs and expense to have the same renewed at the peril to their livelihoods.
“Undocumented refugees and asylum seekers are left exposed to police harassment, extortion, arbitrary arrest and eventual prosecution for being in the country illegally. Undocumented refugees and asylum seekers within urban setups cannot access humanitarian services from organisations that provide humanitarian services which require identification as a pre-requisite for qualification of services. Some undocumented refugee children are denied access to public services such as schools and hospitals,” he pointed out.
Justice Majanja indicated that the government directive amounted to taking away accrued or acquired rights without due process of the law.
He observed that some of the individual petitioners have demonstrated that they hold valid refugee identity cards and had applied for renewal of the same.
“The policy of relocation and encampment adopted by respondent also fails to take into account families with children, those on medical treatment like the 2nd petitioner who is in Nairobi in order to access medical treatment and the specific fact situation of the individual refugee,” he said.
The government had 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.
UNHCR provides services such as registration of refugees in urban areas, provision of healthcare support to dispensaries that serve refugees in urban areas.