President Kenyatta Signs Refugee Bill into Law

The law compels Kenya to recognise, protect and manage refugees giving into effect the 1951 United Nations Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees.

One of the refugee camp in Kenya PHOTO : UNHCR

President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed the Refugee Bill of 2019 into law. The law compels Kenya to recognise, protect and manage refugees giving into effect the 1951 United Nations Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees.

The law gives effect the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and for connected purposes.

“The new Refugees Act, which had earlier been referred back to Parliament for reconsideration by the President, strengthens the management of refugees by consolidating provisions of several international legal instruments,” State House Kenya said on its portal.

The law creates three administrative institutions tasked with handling refugee matters, the department of Refugees of Services, the Refugee Advisory committee and the Refugee Status Appeals Committee.

The Refugee Advisory committee will formulate policy and serve as convener of the representatives of all government departments. It will advise the Cabinet Secretary on matters relating to refugees and will be chaired by the Commissioner of Refugee Affairs while the Refugee Status Appeals Committee, which is tasked with hearing appeals relating to the rejection of application for refugees status or the termination of status.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the law gives renewed hope to over 500,000 refugees living in Kenya to have access to education, livelihoods and integration opportunities.

“This is delightful and much welcomed news, especially given we are only 6 months away from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camp closure deadline. This progressive law now provides a framework for the protracted refugee situation in Kenya to finally be resolved,” Victor Odero, Policy and Advocacy Advisor at the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.

“If given the right opportunities, these 500,000 people could contribute greatly to Kenya’s economy and social fabric. This law also prepares Kenya for a potential influx of refugees in an increasingly volatile region,” he added.

Kenya wants two refugee camps, Dadaab and Kakuma closed by June 30 next year. The camps currently host 433,765 refugees.

UNHCR Kenya had called for dialogue and collaboration with the Kenyan authorities and partners to come up with joint renewed actions ‘that respect refugee rights and lead to sustainable solutions extended its appreciation to President  Kenyatta for signing the bill into law said the law: 

“Will strengthen the protection of refugees by consolidating provisions of international legal instruments. We will continue to work with the government to protect refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya.”