Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Refugees receive RSD letters from RAS

Posted in Human Rights, Humanitarian Services, Kakuma Town and Kenya, News Updates by KANERE on December 31, 2018

BY KANERE News Desk – kakuma.news@gmail.com

The Refugee Affairs Secretariat distributes decision letters to anxious refugees in the wake of the Refugee Status Determination transfer process.

After two years in office, RAS has implemented a two-week period for distributing RSD letters to refugees living in Kakuma, thereby actively engaging asylum seekers – many of whom have fled from civil war, political persecution, religious conflict, and other factors – in the status determination process.

RSD is a legal and administrative process to determine if persons seeking asylum qualify as refugees under international, regional and domestic law. The process is intended to be carried out wherever a person has first sought asylum.

Following the passage of the 2006 Refugee Act in Kenya, the RSD process became the responsibility of the state. The former Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) took responsibility for issues relating to the status of refugees until May 2016. Its successor, the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS), started distributing delayed RSD letters, some dating back as far as 2010 in Kakuma. The distribution began in April throughout August, 2018 for the RSD letters on cases dating back as far as 2010.

Prior to the 2006 Refugee Act, determination of refugee status in Kenya was handled by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). However, thousands of refugees in Kenya expressed dissatisfaction over the suffering caused by prolonged status determination under the UNHCR mechanism. The process was decried as a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention for keeping asylum seekers in camps for an average of six years waiting on RSD, which effectively facilitated the warehousing of people in camps.

“I arrived in 2009, and I received a negative decision from UNHCR in 2014,” Ethiopian asylum seeker Tamiru told KANERE outside the entrance at RAS office in Kakuma. “I appealed to UNHCR and received a second rejection, but I have nowhere else to go.”

Much like hundreds of rejected asylum seekers living in Kakuma, Tamiru alleges that UNHCR wasted years of his life by forcing him and his family to wait for status determination outside the prescribed year-long time-frame. Denying him protection after such a long period left him cut off from any other social connections and economic prospects.

“I feel like UNHCR wasted my life in this camp,” Tamiru added. “I can’t leave the camp because I have no place to go back to.”

Greater numbers of stalled RSD decisions happen when formation is withheld thus frustrating status determination process by UNHCR Protection Unit for the case of Kakuma through its eligibility department. In response to these and related grievances – such as poor living conditions, lack of assistance for those without documentation, and strict restrictions to employment while waiting for RSD – the UNHCR has pointed to the lack of funding and understaffing.

The total number of asylum seekers in Kakuma refugee camp who are pending RSD is estimated at over 21,000 persons of concern, according to the UNHCR’s October 2018 statistical summary.

In terms of resource allocation, Kakuma refugee camp is less prioritized than Nairobi and the Dadaab camps, leaving its vulnerable population in a situation of prolonged warehousing. Despite housing more than twice as many refugees and asylum seekers as Nairobi, the number of people recognized as refugees in Kakuma in 2018 is half that of Nairobi.

All asylum seekers residing in Kakuma have the right to seek asylum and non-refoulement under the law of the country. However, as time goes by, asylum seekers’ needs also increase.

For instance, upon arrival in Kakuma, asylum seekers are accommodated at a UNHCR reception center for a few days or weeks. To start them off, they are issued with an empty jerrycan to fetch water, firewood, a few plates and spoons, a bar of soap, dry maize corn, and a tent. These goods ensure basic physical survival, but they are inadequate to deal with the emotional turmoil that people undergo as they realize the difficulties of their new ecosystem and the potential longevity of their situation.

They face limited opportunities and restrictions on their freedoms, and over time many asylum seekers are subjected to a relationship of dependency on the agencies that provide food rations. Their hopes for a solution to their crisis diminishes as accept the reality of their circumstances. Increasingly, they are known not with their names but by numbers.

Warehousing asylum seekers for so long without completing status determination leaves refugees in a legally ambiguous and morally degraded state. Many know their rights under international law, but find that these rights mean nothing in their direct engagements with UNHCR officials at their site offices. Without a timely status determination process, refugees may be excluded from financial services, limiting their economic opportunities in the camp.

One Congolese refugee who arrived in Kakuma in 2014 and has been working for a camp agency told KANERE that he had expected his status determination to be completed within a year. In 2016 his RSD was still pending approval from the UNHCR, and he found that he was unable to open an M-PESA (Mobile banking account) with Safaricom Limited or register a business in the camp.

“I thought my refugee status would be determined within a year after arrival. but this has not been the case at all,” he explained. “I was denied opportunities because my status determination was incomplete, and people I met at UNHCR were not helpful.”

According to 2006 Refugee Act, Section 12, sub-section 3 (Act No.19 of 2014, S. 46.), any person who has applied for recognition of his status as a refugee and every member of his family shall remain in the designated refugee camp until the processing of their status is concluded. Nevertheless, both fail to explain for how long an asylum seeker should have to wait for their decision to been made.

However, Section 16, subsection 1A states that every recognized refugee and every member of his family in Kenya shall be entitled to the rights and subject to the obligations contained in the international conventions to which Kenya is a party. As such, without completing the RSD process within a year, Kenya remains in violation of Article 17 & 26 of the 1951 Convention, which it has signed. Restrictions on work and movement for refugees are also violations.

KANERE has attempted to reach the RAS Kakuma office, but officials were not available for comment.

While the distribution of letters by RAS and the UNHCR has shed light on the state of the RSD process for a majority of the camp resident who were on hold, the waiting period to get a decision remains unpredictable.

One Response

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  1. Yusuf Osman Adem said, on September 29, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Hi there! R/C.A4016692,ID.845-00198435.I am an Ethiopian refugee who entered Kenya on 24/4/12 and based in kakuma refugee camp with my family.my question is I have done my rsd full interview 0n 31/7/2014.but,there is no radical solution up to date..so what is the matter with my decision for all this long time? Thank u.

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