Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

A LOOK AT THE QUEST OF THE ASYLUM SEEKERS IN KENYA

Posted in Opinion by KANERE on June 30, 2010

A contribution opinion piece by John perkin’s (journalist student) asking the question on the efficiency and accountability of the rescuing Agency?

Writing as a non-Kenyan and non-refugee, the author nevertheless offers some thoughts about the process of becoming a refugee in Kenya.  

In any governed community there exists a fine line between maintaining the peace and restricting an individual’s rights. As national citizens, we forgo certain rights in return for the peace and prosperity of a stable community. Slander and libel, for example, have forced even the most liberated national governments to curtail the right to freedom of expression. In Rwanda, the recent arrest of Victoire Ingabire, a leader of the United Democratic Forces opposition party, represents an approach to governance in which many civil rights are curtailed in an effort to foster peace and security. In the context of a developing country such as Rwanda, this peace and security creates a favorable atmosphere for prudent international integration and increased economic growth. The news of hate mail in Kenya serves as another example. Legislation has been enacted to punish those individuals who propagate incendiary or hateful messages regarding the draft constitution.

The benefits of these examples are easy to recognize-peace and security or avoiding discrimination of certain groups through inciting speech-but the negative consequences of inhibiting certain rights is more vague. In Rwanda, citizens may lose the right to oppose the government through political means. In Kenya, the ambiguity of what constitutes ‘hate mail’ may enable government officials to consider anything in opposition to their views as hateful and incendiary. The power of the opposition lies in its ability to serve as a check on the governing body; a means of accountability and transparency regardless of whether or not the grievances of the opposition are legitimate and accurate.

Yet the ambiguity of what we lose as citizens by forgoing certain rights takes on a whole new meaning when perceived through the lens of an asylum seeker in Kenya.

Camp refugees often come to mind when we think of someone considered to be a ‘refugee’, yet they are only one subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons, essential non citizens considered asylum seekers until a request for refugee status has been accepted by a host country or international humanitarian relief agency. Until then, the only right enjoyed by a displaced person is the right to seek asylum.

In a country such as Kenya, the right to seek asylum means you have the right to wait. An asylum seeker has the right to wait for their identity to be determined for them through the Department of Refugee Affairs’ (DRA) refugee status determination process. Formerly under the authority of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugee status determination comprises a lengthy multi-stage process conducted at a DRA office, though limited resources have led to continued UNHCR involvement. A 2008 Human Rights Watch report1 on the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya highlights the de facto encampment policy of creating disincentives for refugees to seek status as an urban refugee in Kenya. Some of these disincentives arise from the treacherous atmosphere created by the governance of displaced persons while they wait for their refugee status appeal to be heard.

In Nairobi, police harassment and a lack of legal status place asylum seekers in a precarious position as persons deprived of their own agency. They are deprived of the agency to determine their own identity and control their own situation. Asylum seekers wait as their identities are subject to the whims of an appointment slip or Mandate Refugee Certificate.

Seeking refuge in Kenya should not be likened to refoulement of asylum seekers. Displaced persons come to Kenya seeking shelter, food, health, and education that have been seized from them in their home countries. Yet they are also running from human rights abuses associated with conflict, abuses that deprive a citizen of their identity.

The process of refugee status determination should focus on returning this sense of identity. An asylum seeker should not be forced to relinquish that which makes them human simply because they have no legal citizenship. Kenya is home to more than 340,000 refugees and in the midst of a region suffering from seemingly endless conflict. The Kenyan government and collaborative humanitarian relief agencies have a unique opportunity to change how we view asylum seekers and the greater refugee community in general.

By refocusing refugee law implementation to better host asylum seekers, Kenya can be an example to the world of how things could be. In writing, the Kenyan government adheres to international and national refugee law securing the rights and protection of asylum seekers. With talks of regional integration into an East African Federation, Kenya needs to model the difference between political rhetoric and successful policy implementation, especially in regard to accepted refugee law.

And for an asylum seeker, a more welcoming refugee determination process has the potential to rescue one’s agency and identity. Amongst the restriction of rights an asylum seeker (or refugee) inherently faces, owning one’s identity can be instrumental in fostering a hope for a future different than the past they have left. That’s something a displaced person can hold onto, something anyone can hold onto.

There’s a realization of what could be, and that realization of possibility nourishes reality. It nourishes life, whether in the bustling streets of Nairobi or the classroom of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School. It’s a realization that camp warehousing can be addressed; that humanitarian relief agencies can be made accountable to those they serve. A realization of what could be is something that drives all of us, refugee and citizen alike.

A contribution opinion piece by John perkin’s (journalist student) asking the question on the efficiency and accountability of the rescuing Agency?

Writing as a non-Kenyan and non-refugee, the author nevertheless offers some thoughts about the process of becoming a refugee in Kenya.

In any governed community there exists a fine line between maintaining the peace and restricting an individual’s rights. As national citizens, we forgo certain rights in return for the peace and prosperity of a stable community. Slander and libel, for example, have forced even the most liberated national governments to curtail the right to freedom of expression. In Rwanda, the recent arrest of Victoire Ingabire, a leader of the United Democratic Forces opposition party, represents an approach to governance in which many civil rights are curtailed in an effort to foster peace and security. In the context of a developing country such as Rwanda, this peace and security creates a favorable atmosphere for prudent international integration and increased economic growth. The news of hate mail in Kenya serves as another example. Legislation has been enacted to punish those individuals who propagate incendiary or hateful messages regarding the draft constitution.

The benefits of these examples are easy to recognize-peace and security or avoiding discrimination of certain groups through inciting speech-but the negative consequences of inhibiting certain rights is more vague. In Rwanda, citizens may lose the right to oppose the government through political means. In Kenya, the ambiguity of what constitutes ‘hate mail’ may enable government officials to consider anything in opposition to their views as hateful and incendiary. The power of the opposition lies in its ability to serve as a check on the governing body; a means of accountability and transparency regardless of whether or not the grievances of the opposition are legitimate and accurate.

Yet the ambiguity of what we lose as citizens by forgoing certain rights takes on a whole new meaning when perceived through the lens of an asylum seeker in Kenya.

Camp refugees often come to mind when we think of someone considered to be a ‘refugee’, yet they are only one subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons, essential non citizens considered asylum seekers until a request for refugee status has been accepted by a host country or international humanitarian relief agency. Until then, the only right enjoyed by a displaced person is the right to seek asylum.

In a country such as Kenya, the right to seek asylum means you have the right to wait. An asylum seeker has the right to wait for their identity to be determined for them through the Department of Refugee Affairs’ (DRA) refugee status determination process. Formerly under the authority of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugee status determination comprises a lengthy multi-stage process conducted at a DRA office, though limited resources have led to continued UNHCR involvement. A 2008 Human Rights Watch report1 on the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya highlights the de facto encampment policy of creating disincentives for refugees to seek status as an urban refugee in Kenya. Some of these disincentives arise from the treacherous atmosphere created by the governance of displaced persons while they wait for their refugee status appeal to be heard.

In Nairobi, police harassment and a lack of legal status place asylum seekers in a precarious position as persons deprived of their own agency. They are deprived of the agency to determine their own identity and control their own situation. Asylum seekers wait as their identities are subject to the whims of an appointment slip or Mandate Refugee Certificate.

Seeking refuge in Kenya should not be likened to refoulement of asylum seekers. Displaced persons come to Kenya seeking shelter, food, health, and education that have been seized from them in their home countries. Yet they are also running from human rights abuses associated with conflict, abuses that deprive a citizen of their identity.

The process of refugee status determination should focus on returning this sense of identity. An asylum seeker should not be forced to relinquish that which makes them human simply because they have no legal citizenship. Kenya is home to more than 340,000 refugees and in the midst of a region suffering from seemingly endless conflict. The Kenyan government and collaborative humanitarian relief agencies have a unique opportunity to change how we view asylum seekers and the greater refugee community in general.

By refocusing refugee law implementation to better host asylum seekers, Kenya can be an example to the world of how things could be. In writing, the Kenyan government adheres to international and national refugee law securing the rights and protection of asylum seekers. With talks of regional integration into an East African Federation, Kenya needs to model the difference between political rhetoric and successful policy implementation, especially in regard to accepted refugee law.

And for an asylum seeker, a more welcoming refugee determination process has the potential to rescue one’s agency and identity. Amongst the restriction of rights an asylum seeker (or refugee) inherently faces, owning one’s identity can be instrumental in fostering a hope for a future different than the past they have left. That’s something a displaced person can hold onto, something anyone can hold onto.

There’s a realization of what could be, and that realization of possibility nourishes reality. It nourishes life, whether in the bustling streets of Nairobi or the classroom of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School. It’s a realization that camp warehousing can be addressed; that humanitarian relief agencies can be made accountable to those they serve. A realization of what could be is something that drives all of us, refugee and citizen alike.

A contribution opinion piece by John perkin’s (journalist student) asking the question on the efficiency and accountability of the rescuing Agency?

Writing as a non-Kenyan and non-refugee, the author nevertheless offers some thoughts about the process of becoming a refugee in Kenya.

In any governed community there exists a fine line between maintaining the peace and restricting an individual’s rights. As national citizens, we forgo certain rights in return for the peace and prosperity of a stable community. Slander and libel, for example, have forced even the most liberated national governments to curtail the right to freedom of expression. In Rwanda, the recent arrest of Victoire Ingabire, a leader of the United Democratic Forces opposition party, represents an approach to governance in which many civil rights are curtailed in an effort to foster peace and security. In the context of a developing country such as Rwanda, this peace and security creates a favorable atmosphere for prudent international integration and increased economic growth. The news of hate mail in Kenya serves as another example. Legislation has been enacted to punish those individuals who propagate incendiary or hateful messages regarding the draft constitution.

The benefits of these examples are easy to recognize-peace and security or avoiding discrimination of certain groups through inciting speech-but the negative consequences of inhibiting certain rights is more vague. In Rwanda, citizens may lose the right to oppose the government through political means. In Kenya, the ambiguity of what constitutes ‘hate mail’ may enable government officials to consider anything in opposition to their views as hateful and incendiary. The power of the opposition lies in its ability to serve as a check on the governing body; a means of accountability and transparency regardless of whether or not the grievances of the opposition are legitimate and accurate.

Yet the ambiguity of what we lose as citizens by forgoing certain rights takes on a whole new meaning when perceived through the lens of an asylum seeker in Kenya.

Camp refugees often come to mind when we think of someone considered to be a ‘refugee’, yet they are only one subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons, essential non citizens considered asylum seekers until a request for refugee status has been accepted by a host country or international humanitarian relief agency. Until then, the only right enjoyed by a displaced person is the right to seek asylum.

In a country such as Kenya, the right to seek asylum means you have the right to wait. An asylum seeker has the right to wait for their identity to be determined for them through the Department of Refugee Affairs’ (DRA) refugee status determination process. Formerly under the authority of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugee status determination comprises a lengthy multi-stage process conducted at a DRA office, though limited resources have led to continued UNHCR involvement. A 2008 Human Rights Watch report1 on the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya highlights the de facto encampment policy of creating disincentives for refugees to seek status as an urban refugee in Kenya. Some of these disincentives arise from the treacherous atmosphere created by the governance of displaced persons while they wait for their refugee status appeal to be heard.

In Nairobi, police harassment and a lack of legal status place asylum seekers in a precarious position as persons deprived of their own agency. They are deprived of the agency to determine their own identity and control their own situation. Asylum seekers wait as their identities are subject to the whims of an appointment slip or Mandate Refugee Certificate.

Seeking refuge in Kenya should not be likened to refoulement of asylum seekers. Displaced persons come to Kenya seeking shelter, food, health, and education that have been seized from them in their home countries. Yet they are also running from human rights abuses associated with conflict, abuses that deprive a citizen of their identity.

The process of refugee status determination should focus on returning this sense of identity. An asylum seeker should not be forced to relinquish that which makes them human simply because they have no legal citizenship. Kenya is home to more than 340,000 refugees and in the midst of a region suffering from seemingly endless conflict. The Kenyan government and collaborative humanitarian relief agencies have a unique opportunity to change how we view asylum seekers and the greater refugee community in general.

By refocusing refugee law implementation to better host asylum seekers, Kenya can be an example to the world of how things could be. In writing, the Kenyan government adheres to international and national refugee law securing the rights and protection of asylum seekers. With talks of regional integration into an East African Federation, Kenya needs to model the difference between political rhetoric and successful policy implementation, especially in regard to accepted refugee law.

And for an asylum seeker, a more welcoming refugee determination process has the potential to rescue one’s agency and identity. Amongst the restriction of rights an asylum seeker (or refugee) inherently faces, owning one’s identity can be instrumental in fostering a hope for a future different than the past they have left. That’s something a displaced person can hold onto, something anyone can hold onto.

There’s a realization of what could be, and that realization of possibility nourishes reality. It nourishes life, whether in the bustling streets of Nairobi or the classroom of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School. It’s a realization that camp warehousing can be addressed; that humanitarian relief agencies can be made accountable to those they serve. A realization of what could be is something that drives all of us, refugee and citizen alike.

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