Kenya: Kakuma Refugees Seek Relocation Over Insecurity

The Dadaab refugee camp (file photo).

A group of refugees in the northern Kenyan camp of Kakuma are requesting to be relocated to another country, citing increased insecurity.

However, authorities have turned down their request because of the current restrictions on movement on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 60 refugees and asylum seekers were engaged in a sit-in protest this past week at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees-run camp.

UNHCR declined to reveal the nationalities of the protesters because of their privacy policy, but maintained that resettlement in a third country is currently out of the question because the current dynamics.

"Besides the airport being closed, the Kenya government has also suspended relocation within the country due to Covid-19. We are however assuring them that we have been in touch with the police and they will get 24-hour security plus a hotline to call in case of emergency," said Erjin Byun, the UNHCR spokesperson for Kenya.

Ms Byun said the refugees claim the attackers are targeting specific communities.

Kakuma hosts about 196,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan, but there are also asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Burundi.

Most refugees in the Kenyan camps of Kakuma and Dadaab apply for relocation to European countries and the US.

Right to protest

In an earlier statement, UNHCR said they support the right of refugees to peaceful and lawful protest.

"However, given the current situation, we urge the demonstrators to respect restrictions that have been put in place by the government of Kenya to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to protect the health of all refugees and host communities," said the statement.

UNHCR says that they have met twice with their partners, the representatives of the National Police Service and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat, to understand their concerns and to identify and agree on ways to resolve the situation.

The agency also said that individuals within the group who may wish to discuss personal security concerns have been offered counselling sessions with UNHCR and partner staff.

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