African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) Advisory on Stipends and Protests:
FEB AHRC ADVISORY ONE
February 26, 2020
Many refugees in Kenya have contacted AHRC expressing concern that HIAS is cutting off stipends. We are clarifying the following, and issuing this advisory, based on what we know, which we hope may be helpful to refugees in Kenya at this time. This is the first of 2 advisories. The second, FEB ADVISORY TWO, will outline the choices and process for refugees who are stuck without stipends and will be issued within the following week.
I. ADVISORY SUMMARY:
A] Fully cooperate with HIAS reassessment interviews
B] Consider and consult about your INDIVIDUAL options, during and after you have had your assessment
C] Refrain from premature protests that may result in actions that hurt your chances of resettlement and threaten the entire refugee program in Kenya -
D] PLEASE be fully informed of the consequences and possible outcomes to ALL refugees before donating money for protest T-shirts and banners, especially when there are refugees currently in need of food, and when money can be well spent on livelihood programs.
HIAS is currently calling in refugees who are receiving stipends to do individual assessments with regard to their respective stipends for the purpose of evaluating each individual case.
Why is this happening:
In December 2018, refugees at Kakuma staged a protest that resulted in violence, which resulted in UNHCR urgently transferring a large group of almost 200 refugees to Nairobi for protection under the then circumstances at that time. Through a complicated trajectory thereafter, especially given Kenya’s mandatory encampment policy, the refugees were advised that stipends and some shelters were an interim solution and not sustainable for the long term.
More than one year later after this time, the refugees are now being individually assessed, under the following current circumstances:
a) Specific circumstances
Assessments: Those who were transferred were given assistance without assessments, and many covered by HIAS stipends are now for the first time being assessed or re-evaluated.
Encampment: Kenya has an encampment policy: This is strict Kenyan law requiring that all refugees are supposed to be in Camps. In camps, such as Kakuma, UNHCR is able to facilitate shelter and food rations. This cannot be provided in general in urban areas.
Encampment is law for the sake of the security of Kenyan citizens due to recent terror attacks and killings in the country. This means the Kenyan government does not want foreigners in the urban areas, especially living in large groups, and is encouraging all refugees to go to camps, which is an option for some refugees and mandatory for most.
Warning: word has it that Kenya is intending to clamp down on any unpermitted/ undocumented foreigner / refugee who is not in a camp. This could result in arrests, possible deportations, risk to resettlement and could risk refugee programs. For LGBTQI people arrests are particularly dangerous as homosexuality is still a criminal offense in Kenya. There is NOTHING UNHCR can do to change Kenyan law or policy.
The Kenyan Government is a hostile host to LGBTQI refugees, because they are considered criminal under Kenyan law. Homosexuality is subject to the punitive penal code in Kenya and as recently as last year, the Courts upheld the criminal code, refusing to rule it unconstitutional.
The fact that there is an LGBTQI program where the Kenyan government’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) actually registers LGBTQI as a social group facilitating LGBTI foreigners to be recognized as a refugee is miraculous, as they could choose not to pursue this aspect of the resettlement program with UNHCR.
Protests: It is correct and true that under the Kenyan Constitution people are legally able to protest. However any LGBTQI refugee who chooses to protest, even if there is lawful police protective permit to do so, is under great risk of arrest, especially if not documented to be in Nairobi. If there is the slightest amount of provocation or the mere perception of provocation, such can trigger violence, similar to what happened in the past, also placing the entire program for ALL LGBTQI at risk of being terminated by Kenya.
Kenya could end the refugee program for all LGBTQI refugees at any time. This means all LGBTQI people are at risk if the Kenyan government is provoked. It is clear that Kenya will not change the encampment law. It is clear UNHCR and HIAS have limited funds and it is clear that refugees will be reassessed and that stipends will not go on without being checked.
HENCE, in conclusion, we urge refugees and donors who are considering any form of protest to reconsider such under these exceptional and dangerous circumstances, and to first obtain individual assessments, then seek consultation for personal durable solutions and/or seek further solutions/ recourse under FEB AHRC ADVISORY TWO, to be released in several days.
b) General circumstances
There are over 60 million migrants globally and the refugee system is exhausted and over-taxed. UNHCR does not have the capacity to fully support all refugees. Resettlement is not guaranteed. Refugees are best able to sustain themselves when they are able to succeed at livelihood programs, whether in urban areas or camps. Therefore donors are encouraged to seek out such programs rather than to enable the current uncertainty, which in truth is fraught with complexity and subject to corruption.
Accordingly, we urge all People of Concern (POC), refugees, organizations, donors, CBO’s to work in collaboration and unity with each other, for the best interests of all. Hence anyone considering any form of support is welcome to check in with African HRC, to ensure that their experience is unifying and not divisive.
III. We conclude by repeating this advisory:
A] Fully cooperate with HIAS reassessment interviews;
B] Consider and consult about your INDIVIDUAL options, during and after you have had your assessment;
C] Refrain from premature protests that may result in actions that hurt you, your chances of resettlement and threaten the entire refugee program in Kenya
D] DONORS PLEASE be fully informed of the consequences and possible outcomes to ALL refugees before donating money for protest T-Shirts and banners, especially when there are refugees currently in need of survival related sustenance such as food and when money can be well spent on livelihood programs to enhance the future of refugee.
African Human Rights Coalition continues to support refugees with resources, humanitarian assistance and advocacy, seeking durable solutions for protection and resettlement.
PLEASE revisit this space for updates and FEB AHRC ADVISORY TWO which will speak to the options if stipends are in fact terminated or reduced for an individual.
Director of Humanitarian Affairs