New UN refugee plan rubs Kenya the wrong way

By Gatonye Gathura

A new UN plan emphasizing on local resettlement of refugees including citizenship for up to 40,000 Somalis may have precipitated the closure of camps in Kenya.

Barely a week after the UN published the Kenya Comprehensive Refugee Programme 2016 on April 30th, the government on 6th May ordered the closure of camps in the country.

While announcing the closure of the two main refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for interior Karanja Kibicho accused the UN of half hearted efforts to repatriate the refugees.

Only 12,298 refugees have voluntarily returned home since 2014 however the UNHCR report is optimistic that more will do so in coming years.

But in its own words the UNHCR says this may be unlikely to make a major impact since the available money to support voluntary repatriation can only cover about 10,000 returnees.

“The repatriation allocation will however not be sufficient if the current trend of departures continues, as it only covers returns of some 10,000 people,” says the UNHCR plan

Meanwhile the UNHCR says will advocate the government for local integration of Somali refugees with strong links to Kenya and those whose status may warrant the grant of permanent residence.

“The actual numbers will be determined through consultations with the government. However, it is expected that some 40,000 Somali refugees or thereabouts may benefit from this type of solution during the next two years.”

The plan indicates an ongoing review of local and international laws which Kenya is party to in a push to further reaffirm the rights of refugees in this country.

Issues under discussion include freedom of movement of refugees and alternatives to camps, as well as durable solutions, such as the acquisition of alternative legal status.

The review is assessing whether refugees can be registered as Kenyans on the basis of marriage to Kenyan nationals or lawful residence in Kenya over a prescribed period.

Kenya accuses the international community of abandoning its obligations per international conventions requiring then to resettle some refuges from the continent.

The UNHCR says the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Sweden have pledged to take a paltry 6,000 refugees fro resettlement from Kenya. These may include about 500 gay and lesbians claiming to have escaped persecution in Uganda.

The new UN plan which shows little or no Kenya Government footprints is not accidental. Early this week former British Foreign secretary David Miliband had told the Guardian newspaper that massive refugee camps such as those in Kenya or Turkey are no longer viable and should be closed down.

“The way of the future is get these people into work, get their children into an education, make them part of society as residents and it’s up to the countries concerned.”
Kenya will be the first place where this thinking will be piloted in coming years. “It is about doing business differently in the Kenya refugee operation,” says Raouf Mazou the UNHCR Representative in Kenya of the new approach.

In June 2015, the UNHCR says the Turkana County Government allocated about 1,500 hectares of land for a new refugee settlement near Kalobeyei Township.

“The UN agreed with the Turkana County Government to develop a settlement that would promote the self-reliance of refugees and host communities,”

But, and this is speculation on the author’s part, the national government may be feeling the West is using the refugee issue to get a foot hold on the expected oil and gas riches in the county

The UNHCR, together with the World Bank and other western agencies have developed a five-year-plan to tap into irrigation and the extraction industry for the benefit of the local and refugee communities.

“In collaboration with the World Bank, UNHCR is currently mounting the Kalobeyei Integrated Social and Economic Development Programme to plan for the extraction and irrigation potential in the area,” says the UN report.

Rocket Science

By Gatonye Gathura

A new UN plan emphasizing on local resettlement of refugees including citizenship for up to 40,000 Somalis may have precipitated the closure of camps in Kenya.

Barely a week after the UN published the Kenya Comprehensive Refugee Programme 2016 on April 30th, the government on 6th May ordered the closure of camps in the country.

While announcing the closure of the two main refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for interior Karanja Kibicho accused the UN of half hearted efforts to repatriate the refugees.

Only 12,298 refugees have voluntarily returned home since 2014 however the UNHCR report is optimistic that more will do so in coming years.

But in its own words the UNHCR says this may be unlikely to make a major impact since the available money to support voluntary repatriation can only cover about 10,000 returnees.

“The repatriation allocation will however not be sufficient if the current trend of departures continues, as it only covers returns of some 10,000 people,” says the UNHCR plan

Meanwhile the UNHCR says will advocate the government for local integration of Somali refugees with strong links to Kenya and those whose status may warrant the grant of permanent residence.

“The actual numbers will be determined through consultations with the government. However, it is expected that some 40,000 Somali refugees or thereabouts may benefit from this type of solution during the next two years.”

The plan indicates an ongoing review of local and international laws which Kenya is party to in a push to further reaffirm the rights of refugees in this country.

Issues under discussion include freedom of movement of refugees and alternatives to camps, as well as durable solutions, such as the acquisition of alternative legal status.

The review is assessing whether refugees can be registered as Kenyans on the basis of marriage to Kenyan nationals or lawful residence in Kenya over a prescribed period.

Kenya accuses the international community of abandoning its obligations per international conventions requiring then to resettle some refuges from the continent.

The UNHCR says the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Sweden have pledged to take a paltry 6,000 refugees fro resettlement from Kenya. These may include about 500 gay and lesbians claiming to have escaped persecution in Uganda.

The new UN plan which shows little or no Kenya Government footprints is not accidental. Early this week former British Foreign secretary David Miliband had told the Guardian newspaper that massive refugee camps such as those in Kenya or Turkey are no longer viable and should be closed down.

“The way of the future is get these people into work, get their children into an education, make them part of society as residents and it’s up to the countries concerned.”
Kenya will be the first place where this thinking will be piloted in coming years. “It is about doing business differently in the Kenya refugee operation,” says Raouf Mazou the UNHCR Representative in Kenya of the new approach.

In June 2015, the UNHCR says the Turkana County Government allocated about 1,500 hectares of land for a new refugee settlement near Kalobeyei Township.

“The UN agreed with the Turkana County Government to develop a settlement that would promote the self-reliance of refugees and host communities,”

But, and this is speculation on the author’s part, the national government may be feeling the West is using the refugee issue to get a foot hold on the expected oil and gas riches in the county

The UNHCR, together with the World Bank and other western agencies have developed a five-year-plan to tap into irrigation and the extraction industry for the benefit of the local and refugee communities.

“In collaboration with the World Bank, UNHCR is currently mounting the Kalobeyei Integrated Social and Economic Development Programme to plan for the extraction and irrigation potential in the area,” says the UN report.

Rocket Science

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