Kenya - Refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas


Refugee status determination (RSD) decisions: By 31 December 2020, there was a backlog of 26,695. The RSD backlog strategy still needs to be fully embraced by RAS.

Documentation: While Refugee ID cards are being issued through the LCU, regular updates in ProGres v4 remain a gap. 6,355 Refugee ID cards remain uncollected. The Kiosk for Access Service and Information (KASI) roll-out remains to be completed, as does integration with the quality management system to provide better services to people of concern to UNHCR.

Livelihood: Significant delays with RSD hindered access to livelihoods opportunities. Recognized refugees have limited access to work permits, as only refugees with special skills or who can invest will be successful in obtaining a class M work permit. In order to access financial services, there are new requirements which refugees cannot easily meet. This leads to refugees being excluded from the formal market and delays in registration of refugee community-based organizations. A study on refugees’ positive impact on the local economy to measure the impact of livelihood interventions in the urban programme. While some banks agreed to open bank accounts for refugees, in practice, refugees’ access to financial services remain restricted, and there was a lack of resources to provide any safety net in case businesses owned by people of concern collapsed, or to build their resilience.

Education: While good progress has been made to include refugees in the narrative of national plans (including for emergency response), they tend to be left out of budgeting/financial arrangements for implementation. This is compounded by lack of robust education data on refugee learners. Capacity-building in economics, statistics and data management would support improvement in this area.

Assistance to persons with special needs: People of concern to UNHCR suffered from gaps in inclusion in some national services such as cash transfers provided to Kenyans in light of the pandemic. Increasing numbers of people, including persons with special needs, were unable to sustain themselves in urban areas due to the drastic negative economic impact of COVID-19. There were increased mental health needs due to the pandemic. 50 people of concern with chronic illnesses lacked sufficient and reliable food supplies, which ultimately results in non-adherence to medication.

Health: Increasing numbers of people left economically vulnerable due to COVID-19 required support to access secondary healthcare, making it impossible to achieve the Government’s objective of universal health coverage, as only 30% of refugees were provided with health insurance.

Child protection: 502 best interests assessments/determinations/social assessments were completed, covering only 9% of unaccompanied and separated children. 14% (504) of the total of 3,570 unaccompanied children received regular monitoring visits. Over 300 children required best interests assessments and did not have urban documentation, pending approval by the exemption panel led by RAS. For children “ageing out” of child protection assistance, there was little additional support to assist with this transition. Mapping of community-based organizations that support community-based child protection revealed that many do not receive regular funding.

Gender-based violence/LGBTIQ+: Most-at-risk are not included in National Social Protection Programme. LGBTIQ+ people of concern to UNHCR reported increased threats of eviction and violence.

Safe house/transit centre: Given the increase of vulnerable refugees who cannot live in the camp for protection reasons, the places allocated in the safe house/transit were at times insufficient. Access to safe houses and transit centres remained restricted due to COVID19 protocols. There was a lack of child-friendly spaces as well as recreational activities and equipment.

Legal Assistance: A network of pro-/low-bono lawyers was formalized to increase access to legal services for people of concern. The Legal Aid Act needs to be fully operationalized so that refugees can benefit from the services provided by the National Legal Aid Service (NLAS). Training of border officials could not be conducted.

Durable solutions: COVID-19 reduced further the resettlement space which affected many families with specific needs (particularly Somalis) with no real exit strategies in the urban areas if they could not live in the camps for protection or security reasons. Persons ready to voluntarily repatriate could not do so due to the pandemic restrictions.