By: Erick Kyalo
GARISSA—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 after years of desperation that saw them live a life of uncertainty.
The influx of Somali refugees at the vast Dadaab refugee camp in the early 1990s coincided with a prolonged drought in North Eastern Kenya that almost wiped out their livestock, 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, and free health care provided by the UNHCR to the refugees in the camps, and later, third-party repatriation to, among others, European countries.
Over 40,000 Kenyans, the majority of them teenagers, who found themselves in the UN’s refugee agency could not secure Kenya’s citizenship documentation, hence suffering in legal dilemma.
Last week, the Interior and National Administration Ministry issued a circular to the sub-county Security and Intelligence Committees, granting them authority to vet and recommend the de-registration of 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 to the vetting committee. The applicant must also come with the latest photograph and has to be accompanied by his/her parents or a guardian.
“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 will be free. He cautioned individuals planning to take advantage of the opportunity to defraud members of the public by soliciting for bribes of prosecution.
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 kick off with a stipulated timelines.”
The government has issued Identity Cards (IDs) to over 12,000 applicants in January, 2022 following a much-publicised vetting that took place in late 2019. A similar exercise in 2016 failed to materialised.
However, there are individuals who had undergone the vetting during the 2019 exercise but are yet to secure their citizenship documentation, a situation the DCC said was occasioned by anomalies in 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 is sitting down to make corrections where possible, and if individuals are required, they will be called,” the DCC said.
On her part, Haki Na Sheria Initiative’s programme officer, Khasida Abdullahi hailed the government’s move to solve the double registration impasse, saying the affected group have suffered for a long time.
“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, and we hope that this exercise will be able to de-register all remaining Kenyans once and for all,” Khasida said.
She stated that they are looking forward to a government-sanctioned initiative that will aid the affected persons to voluntarily remove themselves from the UNHCR database.
“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 someone who cannot even use Mpesa, travel, or pursue higher learning just because of a lack of an 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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