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State begins process to de-register Kenyans from UNHCR database

Kenya News Agency
Saturday August 12, 2023

Garissa Township Deputy county commissioner Solomon Chesut addresses the press after meeting with sub county security and intelligence committee /KNA

The government has launched another round of vetting to de-register Kenyans who were captured in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) database.

This is after years of desperation that saw them live a life of uncertainty.

The influx of Somalia refugees at the vast Dadaab refugee camp in the early 90s coincided with prolonged drought in North Eastern Kenya that almost wiped out their livestock which is the locals’ lifeline.

These challenges forced tens of thousands of Kenyans to register themselves as refugees for opportunities to get free rations, free education, free shelter as well health provided by the UNHCR to the refugees in the camps, and later, the third-party repatriation to among others, European countries.

Over 40,000 Kenyans, majority of them teenagers, who found themselves in the UN’s refugee agency, could not secure Kenya’s citizenship documentation hence suffered in legal dilemma.

Last week, the Interior and National administration ministry issued a circular to the sub-county Security and Intelligence Committee granting them authority to vet and recommend for de-registration Kenyans who previously registered as refugees.

The communication also provided guidelines for the officials to follow during the vetting.

The affected persons are supposed to be introduced by the area chief in writing with the photo of the applicant, and also appear in person accompanied by their parents to the vetting committee.

“Where the affected person’s parents or siblings are deceased, the chief will confirm in writing the blood guardian to support the identity of the affected person, and shall be required to commit himself on the application forms,” the circular reads in parts.

According to the circular, the affected persons are required to produce acceptable documentary evidence as proof of age and also to declare their refugee status number acquired at the refugee camp.

Speaking during a meeting with chiefs and human rights defenders in Garissa town, Township Deputy county commissioner Solomon Chesut said the process is free. He cautioned against people who would want to take advantage of the opportunity to defraud members of the public by soliciting for bribes.  

Chesut said they are still waiting for direction on when exactly to start the process noting that in the next one or two weeks, the process will officially start and timelines are also stipulated.

The government successfully issued Identity cards to over 12,000 individuals in January 2022. A much publicised vetting took place in late 2019 while a previous one in 2016 failed.

However, there are individuals who had undergone the vetting during the 2019 exercise but are yet to secure their citizenship documentation. This the DCC said was occasioned by anomalies on the initial presentation of documents.

“For those who applied, we are assuring them that they should not worry because there were some anomalies and we are correcting them. The sub-county security and Intelligence committee are sitting down to make corrections where possible, and if individuals are required they will be called,” the DCC said.

Haki Na Sheria Initiative’s programme officer Khasida Abdullahi hailed the government’s move to solve the double registration impasse saying this group of people has suffered for long.

“We appreciate the government for bringing this vetting, we understand these people have suffered so much simply because they have registered themselves with the UNHCR. We hope this exercise will be able to de-register all remaining Kenyans once and for all,” Khasida said.

She said they are looking forward to an initiative from the government that helps individuals registered in the UN’s Refugee agency database can de-register themselves at will without even such an exercise.

“We are calling out to all those whose fingerprints are in the UNHCR database to take advantage of the exercise and come out to de-register themselves,” she said.

“Imagine of someone who cannot even use Mpesa, travel or pursue higher learning just because of a lack of Identity card, as Haki Na Sheria we are committed to working with all partners to ensure these people live a dignified life,” she added.


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