US urges Kenya to maintain refugee asylum space


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Affairs ministry CS Rachael Omamo briefing on bilateral relations and regional peace at a Nairobi hotel today. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The United States has urged Kenya to maintain asylum space for people fleeing conflict.

The two governments held the second session of the Kenya-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Nairobi.

Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed strengthening partnerships and advancing peace and prosperity in Africa and the western Indian Ocean region.

The US commended Kenya’s hospitality and commitment to hosting refugees over decades.

Kenya called on the United States and other partners to share the burden of hosting refugees, including through financial assistance.

Kenya has maintained its position on the closure of refugee camps.

While assuming its presidency for the month of October at the UN Security Council (UNSC), Kenya said it will continue to amplify its strong voice for Africa and human suffering.

Speaking to the press, Omamo said refugee camps should not be permanent or last resort.

Omamo said a time has come for the UN to seek a comprehensive approach to solutions, away from voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement.

“Many people across the continent will continue to seek refuge, but at the same time, Kenya is of the view that the same refugees should not be kept in limbo in these camps,” said Omamo.

She said Kenya advocates for the voluntary return of these refugees to their countries of origin without violation of laid down procedures.

Kakuma camp houses more than 200,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i in April said refugees from the East Africa Community residing in the camps will have an option of repatriation or free work permits to carve out a living anywhere in the country, thus “contributing to our nation's social-economic growth”.

Executive director Irungu Houghton at the time said neither permanent refugee camps, rushed camp closures, or violating international principles of nonrefoulment are solutions.

“We trust the government and UN High Commissioner for Refugees shall work towards identifying more opportunities for resettlement or voluntarily repatriation of willing refugees.”

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