Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Community Talking Point: Integration and Freedom of Movement

By KANERE staff reporter, May 2019

What do you think about the refugees integration and the freedom of movement? The Refugee Affairs secretariat (RAS), the main body responsible for refugees in Kenya, in conjunction with UNHCR, Refugee Consortiumof Kenya (RCK), and other implementing agencies held a one-day meeting with refugees on May 12th to discuss integration in Kalobeyei.

The meeting took place at Kalobeyei Village 2 and involved neighborhood leaders, chairmen, charladies, youth representatives, and representatives from the host community. The aim of the meeting was to provide information to and canvass views from refugees concerning integration and freedom of movement inside Kenya. During the meeting, the RAS officials briefly presented a plan for freedom of movement, which would hypothetically give refugees permission to travel and explore Kenya. There were suggestions that the government is ready to offer land ownership for refugees.

However, the meeting ended after the rejection of the integration plan from Host and Refugees representatives. “We welcomed refugees because they have a problem or war in their country of origin. But we hope that they will go back to their country when situations have improved. Or they may seek resettlement to a third country. But we don’t want them to take our land, “explained Ekiru, representative from the Turkana host community.

Refugee representatives also opposed the plan. KANERE spoke to refugees and asylum seekers in both Kalobeyei and Kakuma. We asked their perspectives on the plan proposed at the meeting. The comments exemplify the range of public opinion about prospects for refugee integration in Kenya.

Part of Kalobeyei’s integration plan is funded by EU Trust Fund for Africa through UNHCR Kenya/By KANERE

“Integration has only one advantage, and that is freedom of movement in and around Kenya. But I would only take this option if I had the money needed to start-up a business, to travel to Kenya, to buy goods and transport them safely to my business destinations. But I didn’t run away from home because I lacked land or a place to stay. I had plenty of space to live, fertile soil to cultivate, and nature to enjoy.”
– Devdson, community leader in Village One of Kalobeyei

“How would I live in Kenya without aid? Who is going to cover my expenses as I establish myself?”
– Claude, community leader in Village Two

“I do not think I will accept this trap, they are using this for their funding proposals and those of us stuck in the middle of it will suffer.”
– Kchamri, UNHCR interpreter, Kakuma

“That is great and I will accept it if it will not bring problems to my card.”
– Block leader in Kakuma One

“From personal experience as a refugee, the term ‘free movement’ is not there. It is a façade.”
– Loza, Congolese youth leader in Kakuma One

“I wouldn’t accept to be integrated or to be Kenyan citizens but I want free movement of the refugees and asylum seekers within Kenya.”
– Amina, Ethiopian refugee

“I think integration and free movement shall help some refugees. But it will not help refugees who have serious cases. Kenya is not a good place for refugees to be integrated. First and foremost, refugees are located in very poor places with poor infrastructure and very limited resources. All these limitations constrain refugees from becoming better people.”
– Lule, LGBTI community leader

“For us refugees, it seems like we have been detained. It was not like that before. But nowadays, getting a travel permit is like applying for resettlement.”
– Gai, South Sudanese student of Film and Media

“Freedom of movement is a great idea, but integration seems concerning. Frankly, I don’t know why.”
– Lemay, South Sudanese photographer living in Hong Kong

For many, the term integration was of greater concern than issues around movement. As Dr Cory Rodgers from Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre explains, refugee integration can mean many different things. “It can mean refugees and citizens access the same social services, such as health care and education. Economic integration means refugees can be employed or register their business. Financial integration means refugees can access bank accounts and credit. Lately it seems like there have been limited attention to political integration, where refugees receive the rights of citizenship, such as the right to own land and property, or the right to vote. When refugees are offered integration without rights, I think they have a good reason to be skeptical.”

Abdisalam Hassan, a Somalia refugee in Kakuma One, commented, “It is good to integrate, but UNHCR is dumping refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya which shows the organization has failed.”

Not everyone was in opposition to the plan. Imani, a Burundian Security guard working in Kakuma 2 explained, “I can be very happy if I have get the chances to have freedom of movement in Kenya.”

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