Reception of New Refugees in 2008
Volume 1, Issue 2 /January 2009
During 2008, Kakuma Camp saw 3,014 new refugees arrive and 8,058 refugees repatriate voluntarily to their home country. Reception centre serves as a transition point for all refugees entering the camp as asylum-seekers and exiting the camp as returnees to home. KANERE visited the centre for updates on refugee reception and repatriation.
All new arrivals report to reception centre for preliminary registration. They stay for 10 to 15 days until they are given a ration card and integrated into camp communities. In the centre, refugees are provided with basic needs such as food and water; given material assistance such as pans and blankets; and offered psychological support and camp orientation.
However, lack of funding will force reception centre to cut off some services in the near future. According to management, non-basic services such as the issuance of pans, blankets, and sleeping mats will be eliminated due to budget cuts.
New arrivals in 2008 came from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Zimbabwe. Darfurians continue to be received and registered at Kakuma after being transported from Lokichoggio by UNHCR. All other nationalities must come to Kakuma Camp via referral from the UNHCR offices in Nairobi.
One young asylum-seeker from DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) narrated how she was compelled to flee her country: “I was a student in secondary school in Uvira. Then I went for my holidays in Goma, where the war between DRC army and Nkunda’s soldiers forced us to flee. Many women are raped and others are killed by rebels and government soldiers.” She does not know where some of her family members are.
Reception centre also serves as a departure point for Sudanese refugees returning home. The office registered 8,058 Southern Sudanese for repatriation in 2008.
The reception manager says refugees repatriate for two major reasons. “One is that their country is at peace. Another is that their government, the Government of South Sudan, signed a tripartite agreement calling for all Sudanese from the South to repatriate. They have to go.”
No refugees from South Sudan were received at reception centre in 2008. When asked why South Sudanese refugees are no longer arriving, the manager explains, “We only register any refugee who comes with a letter from UNHCR or the camp manager’s office. This is the policy.” He says refugees are not forced to go home. However, he questions why a refugee or asylum-seeker would not go home when “their claims [to refugee status] are no longer valid.”
There have been speculations among refugees that all South Sudanese must repatriate by February 2009 or they will be handed over to the Kenyan Government. A reliable source confirmed that this is not true. There will be no handing over of any refugees in February. Rather, the UNHCR assistance for voluntary repatriation will be stopped. This means that all South Sudanese refugees wishing to return home after February must do so by their own means.
Reception centre was established in 2001 when there was a refugee influx from Sudan and Somalia. That year, the centre received 10,054 refugees.
All figures cited in this story are according to Reception Centre records.