More than 40,000 Kenyans were posing as refugees in 2016. With their fingerprints in the UNHCR database, their citizenship was jeopardised.
Kenyans who are registered as refugees in Dadaab, Kenya's largest refugee camp and the third largest refugee camp in the world, can now rejoice as the government moves to issue them with IDs by August. Immigration PS Gordon Kilahangwa said that the government was verifying the details and that the Kenyans will be issued with ID cards once the process is completed in August.
News of Kenyans registered as refugees brokes as far back as 2016 and even beyond. The Kenyans were registering themselves and their children as refugees in order to get basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. However, unbeknownst to them, once their fingerprints were in the UN refugee database, those fingerprints remained there. This is especially concerning for minors and others who had not yet acquired their IDs. When going to acquire their ID cards, the government would deny them their request on the basis that they were refugees because their fingerprints were in the refugee database. What would then ensue is those affected trying to prove that they are Kenyan, which can be very difficult without an ID, the very thing that they were seeking in the first place.
In 2016, a report by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) stated, “A total of 24,655 individuals confessed to be Kenyans registered as refugees. In another 3,355 households (15,799 individuals), at least one member has applied for or holds a Kenyan ID card. The number of individuals identified as “double registered” or impacted by “double registration” therefore totals 40,454." The findings confirmed an estimate earlier published by the agency in July when it said up to 42,000 Kenyans were living at Dadaab under false pretences. Most of these Kenyans were of Somali origin and were posing as Somali refugees. With the Kenyan government talking of closing down Dadaab, these people 40,000 people could not be repatriated to voluntarily return to Somalia under the ongoing project because they were Kenyan citizens.
Speaking on the issue, Kilahangwa said they had held several meetings with UNHCR, including one last week with country representative Fathia Abdalla. “I want to give the assurance that this will be done. We are only doing final touches to it. Those who are affected should rest easy knowing that we are working on it,” Kilahangwa said.
“It is my hope that it will be done. It has been decades of suffering for hundreds of people. I will be very happy to see these individuals regain their citizenship," Dadaab MP Mohamed Dahiye said.
The announcement was welcome news for Mohamed Ibrahim, one of the people expecting to get back their citizenship. He said he was ready to wait for the government to conclude the process and get his identity card.
“You can't imagine how I have suffered. It has been hell on earth. Imagine being a refugee in your own country, where you can't move simply because you lack the required documents,” Ibrahim said.
Header Image Credit: AlJazeera
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