Research on Kenya’s New Refugee Act

Sayara International presented our research on Kenya’s new Refugee Act at the 3rd Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Scientific Conference on Migration and Displacement in November 2022.

Focused on themes of inclusion and social cohesion, the conference was jointly organized by IGAD in Eastern Africa, the German Development Agency (GIZ), the World Bank, and the Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Justice and social inclusion of refugees in Kenya

On November 2, Laura Young, Sayara’s former Director for the East Africa region, presented and took part in a panel discussion on the sub-theme “Participation in social and cultural life, justice, and decision-making.”

Laura presented the findings from our new study, “Aligning Kenya’s Refugee Act with Commitments on Justice and Social Inclusion,” which was aimed at exploring the key justice issues for refugees and host communities. Our research also considers whether Kenya’s new Refugee Act, introduced in November 2021, meets international and regional obligations and normative standards. The new laws were enacted in anticipation of the closures of the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps that were planned to start in the summer of 2022.

Our findings draw on in-depth legal analysis, as well as focus group discussions with refugees, returnees, and host communities in Kenya and Somalia – as the highest proportion of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya originate from Somalia.

Opportunities for greater refugee protection and durable solutions

The presentation includes recommendations for the Kenyan government to address gaps in the needs of refugees and host communities, including addressing the interconnected issues of the right to work, freedom of movement, and integration.

Notably, our study calls for the equal treatment of refugees from the East African Community (EAC) and IGAD countries, as Kenya’s new Refugee Act currently excludes two of Kenya’s largest refugee populations – Somalis and Ethiopians – from a key pathway to integration that is available to EAC citizens.

We also suggest that the IGAD bloc establishes a technical advisory body to support the Kenyan government in the development and implementation of regulations for its new refugee laws – ensuring that they include mechanisms for refugees’ and host communities’ participation in decision-making.

Click here to download the presentation.

Learn more about our other research on refugees in Kenya – read about our Refugee Return Research in Dadaab, Kenya.