The Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process is in transition from the UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR – to the Kenyan government.
Since the beginning of October, the RSD process has slowly been taken over by the Kenyan government through the Department for Refugee Affairs (DRA).
The DRA works under the Ministry of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons in Kenya. The DRA has assumed full responsibility for the RSD process in Kakuma refugee camp.
“We have already taken the full responsibility over the RSD process from the UNHCR,” a DRA official in Kakuma office disclosed.
Before 1991, Refugee Status Determination in Kenya was carried out by the Kenyan government. There was slow realization of the proper protection of refugees during those days, but the process was done in accordance with the international refugee laws that Kenya has endorsed.
Before the Refugee Act there was no legislation that specifically dealt with refugee matters in the country. The Kenyan Refugee Act was passed by parliament in November 2006 and received a presidential assent in December 2006 and was officially gazetted to inaugurate on 15th May 2007.
However, from the year 1991, in unclear circumstances UNHCR was given responsibility for conducting the RSD in the country on behalf of the Kenyan government. After many decades in which it has performed this vital role of the state, refugees strongly accuse UNHCR of failing them.
According to the UNHCR RSD guidelines, an asylum seeker or his/her family should get their RSD decisions within a period of six months or at least no more than one year as stated in 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the international laws on determining the status of refugees worldwide.
Hundreds of asylum seekers have suffered a negative decision on their asylum application by UNHCR, without the agency following the set RSD standard and time frame within which decisions are made, without the due process of law, hence violating the rule of law in regards to the international refugee protection.
Asylum seekers have to wait for many years in Kakuma camp without their refugee status being determined. As they live in limbo, asylum seekers suffer severe frustrations and develop traumatic turmoil.
As from the year 2013, the RSD process has again been taken over by the Kenyan government through the Department of Refugee Affairs, through the office of Refugee Camp Management in Kakuma.
Kanere is yet to investigate why the Kenyan government wants to take responsibility for RSD away from UNHCR, after many years of allowing the aid organization to assume the full role of the State in this respect.