Thousands of Kenyans are registering themselves as refugees to benefit from food rations as the hunger crisis bites, a report shows.
However, they are unable to obtain Kenyan identity cards so the report proposes that their cases be considered favourably. As many as 4,000 Kenyans are said to have been found in this predicament since registration started in 2000.
“The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons should ensure that a comprehensive list of such cases is compiled and applying the existing procedures for deregistering Kenyans who may have been registered as refugees in order to issue them with Kenyan IDs,” it says.
The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission’s Report of the Examination into the Systems, Policies, Procedures and Practices of the National Registration Bureau, Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons, identifies five registration centres for aliens in Kenya. They are in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Eldoret and Kisumu.
The report says Kenya has no policy requiring refugees to live in camps. However, a number of measures have been put in place to limit the movement of refugees from camps.
First is the shared policy of the Kenyan Government and UNHCR that refugees cannot receive humanitarian assistance outside of camps.
There is also the government policy restricting officially sanctioned movement between camps and other parts of the country.
This means that once registered in Dadaab’s camps, refugees are not permitted to travel unless they fulfil one or more unpublished criteria for obtaining a “movement pass” co-signed by the Kenyan authorities and the refugee commission.
If a refugee registered in the camps is found travelling without a movement pass, there is the risk of arrest, a fine, and, in practice, even worse, detention.
Thirdly, for Somalis to live outside the camps, they require the UNHCR’s lengthy refugee status determination procedures in Nairobi, compared to swift procedures in Dadaab’s camps.
Refugees’ IDs expire after two years but those issued in 2004/05 have not been replaced. According to the KACC report, “this exposes refugees to possible harassment and extortion by police officers whenever they are required to identify themselves”.
“Kenya has legitimate security concerns and a right to control its borders, but its borders can’t be closed to refugees fleeing fighting and persecution,” says a human rights watch refugee researcher, Mr Gerry Simpson.
But one issue is clear; the number of Somali refugees in Kenya is fast becoming unmanageable despite the continued official closure of the 682-kilometre border with Somalia, effective January 2007.
On average, 165 Somali refugees cross the border daily to escape increasingly violent conflict in Somalia and seek shelter in the heavily overcrowded and chronically under-funded refugee camps in Kenya.
The Human Rights Watch has also termed the fact that the donors’ contribution has remained constant despite the soaring number of refugees in Dadaab camp as “worrying” and “a disaster in waiting”.
On December 19, last year, the refugee commission launched a supplementary appeal for Dadaab for about Sh7.4 billion ($92 million). This excludes World Food Programme’s food budget of approximately Sh320 million per month.
Donors have indicated that they have committed nearly Sh2 billion ($ 24.3 million), 26 per cent of what was requested. The total committed to non-food needs in Dadaab in 2009 is just under Sh1.5 billion ($ 19 million).
The Kenyan Government considers famine as a national disaster while not doing enough to help it's citizens.