Rights and Obligations of Refugees in Kenya
Refugees are as matter of fact vulnerable individuals forced to escape from their country of origin or habitual residence on apprehension/threat of or actual persecution on political, social, economic, religious or racial grounds among.
It is therefore of paramount importance that the international community and the host country accord them protection and guarantee their human rights, and ultimately integrate them in the social and economic life of the host country.
The United Nations Convention on Refugees of 1951 and its Protocol of 1967 read together with a myriad other human rights conventions and treaties espouse the rights and entitlements of refugees. Kenya has ratified most of these conventions and treaties and has domesticated their provisions through the Constitution of Kenya, the Refugee Act, 2021 among other Acts of Parliament and enabling legislation.
In this article we highlight the rights and obligations of refugees in Kenya.
Rights of refugees in Kenya
- Right to identification and civil registration documents and other required documents sufficient to identify the refugee and grant them access to services from both the national and devolved levels of government in Kenya.
- The right to engage individually or in a group in gainful employment or enterprise or to practice a profession or trade where he/she holds qualifications recognized by competent authorities in Kenya. On this basis, a refugee is entitled to a class M work permit under and subject to the provisions of the Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011 laws of Kenya.
- The right to not be refused entry into Kenya or be expelled or extradited from Kenya to any other country where the person would be subjected to persecution or where their life, physical integrity or liberty would be threatened. This is subject to the individual in question not being a threat to the national security of Kenya.
- A refugee from the East African Community (EAC) partner states may voluntarily give up their refugee status to enjoy the right of establishment and residence of the citizens of the partner states within the EAC.
- The right to protection and special treatment and consideration of women, children, older persons, victims of trauma and persons with disabilities.
- The right to voluntarily return to their country of nationality or from which they entered Kenya without any undue restrictions.
- The right to dignity and humane treatment in the host country through the provision of and access to necessary amenities for preservation of their fundamental human rights and dignity.
Obligations of Refugees
In the first instance, refugees have an obligation to avail themselves and seek registration with the Commissioner of Refugee Affairs in Kenya (the “Commissioner”) and procure the prescribed identification documents.
In line with the obligation to procure registration, refugees have a duty to abide by the directions of the Commissioner in respect of areas designated for their reception, transit and or settlement.
Refugees have an obligation to uphold and observe the laws of the host country. They must also keep peace and refrain from acts or omissions injurious to the welfare and national security of Kenya whether criminal or otherwise.
Refugees have an obligation to integrate and contribute to the economic and social development of Kenya through gainful employment and ventures.
Further refugees have an obligation to ensure sustainable and judicious use of resources and amenities allocated to them and refrain from activities that may have negative impact on the people, resources and environment of the host country.
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