The new refugee law in Kenya, Refugee Act 2021 started being in use on February 23, 2022. The changes introduced new rights for refugees, asylum seekers and even touch on how Kenyans relate and live with refugees.
The changes cover registration, documentation, integration and opportunities for employment, business, and movement of refugees.
Here are some common questions on what the Refugee Act 2021 says and answers from legal experts.
Does the Refugee Act 2021 affect closure of the refugee camps by June 2022?
The new Act does not mention the closure of the refugee camps. In April 2021, The Kenyan government (GoK) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that they agreed on a roadmap to closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee camps by June 2022. There has been no further communication on this.
What does the Refugee Act of 2021 say about the integration of refugees into the local economy in Kenya?
The Act says that the government will take steps to support refugees to integrate into Kenyan society. The Act provides for the following rights.
- A recognized refugee shall have the right to engage individually or in a group, in gainful employment or enterprise or to practice a profession or trade where he holds qualifications recognized by the authorities in Kenya;
This means a person recognized as a refugee shall have the right to be employed, start a business, or to practice a profession or trade. Their qualifications are to be recognized by the relevant authorities in Kenya. The Refugee Act of 2021 also says:
- Refugees shall be enabled to contribute to the economic and social development of Kenya by facilitating access to, and issuance of, the required documentation at the national and county governments.
The National and County Governments shall facilitate refugee access to the required documents. It will enable them to contribute to economic and social development.
Refugees are also to be included in the national and county sustainable development goals in the country and the sharing of public facilities with host communities. of Kenya.
What does the Act say about engaging vulnerable groups?
The Act states that the government of Kenya, in cooperation with the UNHCR and the other organizations involved in the assistance of refugees, will pay special attention to women, children, older persons, victims of trauma and persons with disabilities during reception and residence.
What does the Refugee Act 2021 say about the resettlement of refugees to a third country?
The Act outlines resettlement as part of the durable solutions for refugees living in Kenya. Under this Act, a refugee may access resettlement opportunities in any other country outside Kenya except their country of origin. Through advocacy, the government shall seek more resettlement quarters in addition to those already allocated by other agencies.
According to data from the UNHCR, 458 refugees who were living in Kenya were able to be resettled to a third country in 2020. However, the number of refugees who were resettled from Kenya in 2021 increased almost three-fold to 1,517 people.
Follow this LINK for more information about resettlement and the resettlement process for refugees in Kenya.
Does the Refugee Act 2021 allow for Voluntary Repatriation (return to one’s country of origin) of refugees living in Kenya?
The Act states that asylum seekers or refugees living in Kenya shall have the right to voluntary repatriation with their movable property by following required procedures and laws. If you are in Dadaab Refugee Camp, you can access more information on Voluntary Repatriation here and here for Kakuma.
Will refugees be allowed to move outside the refugee designated area and travel freely around Kenya?
Yes, If you have a movement pass. Refugees and asylum seekers who wish to travel outside the designated areas and move within Kenya will be required to apply for a movement pass with the Department of Refugee Services (DRS), formerly known as Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS).
What are the areas set aside to host refugees in Kenya?
The Act states that we shall have counties designated to host refugees but does not provide or name the specific designated Counties or areas for hosting refugees in Kenya. The government in consultation with the counties is to specify the counties.
Does the Refugee Act 2021 allow the registration of more refugees entering Kenya?
Under the new Act, a person entering the country to seek asylum should go to the nearest reception center or the nearest government administrative office as soon as possible to apply for asylum. This should be within 30 days.
A person commits an offense if that person after entering Kenya fails to report to or to apply for asylum within the first 30 days in the country. The person will be liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings (Ksh50,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
What if my Refugee Status application is rejected?
In the event that your application for asylum is rejected, the new law allows you up to 60 days to explore various appeal options including the Refugee Status Appeals Committee. The law says there shall be no fee charged for the filing of applications and appeals for refugee status determination outcome.
Will the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) continue serving refugees in the camp?
Under the Refugee Act 2021, the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) has transitioned to the current Department for Refugee Services (DRS). All the powers, rights and commitments by RAS will now be undertaken by DRS.
What will happen to those who were interviewed for refugee status determination but have not received any feedback?
Any person who has applied for recognition as a refugee, and their family members shall have the right to remain within Kenya until their application is fully determined. If the application is rejected, you will still be allowed time to explore and exhaust your right to appeal the decision.
Who are the persons that can be considered a member of a Refugee’s family?
Refugee Act 2021 allows adopted children and relatives by marriage as a refugee’s family members. Following the act, the family members of the refugee will include;
- Any spouse of the refugee
- Any child of the refugee, including an adopted child for as long as they are under the age of 18 years.
- Blood relatives of refugees.
- Refugee married couple.
- A person who is dependent on the income of the refugee.
Can a refugee who marries a Kenyan seek citizenship under the new law?
The new law does not cover marriage but the Kenyan laws: – provide that a person, who has been married to a Kenya citizen for a period of not less than seven years, as long as the marriage was solemnized under a system of law, recognized in Kenya, and has acquired residence status shall be entitled on application to Kenya citizenship.
If you have any questions about the Refugee Act of 2021, please write to us via the Julisha.Info Facebook page, Monday through Friday from 08:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.