Mudavadi calls for long term solution to refugee crisis

"The Shirika Plan involves a wide range of sectors, including education, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition, livelihoods, self-reliance, social protection, environmental management and energy, agriculture, housing, land and property, and other durable solutions," he said.

"All these are underpinned by a robust legal framework for the benefit of refugees," he added.

By the end of August, Kenya hosted a total of 644,011 refugees and asylum-seekers. Among them, 83 per cent are refugees, and 17 per cent are asylum-seekers.

The increase from July figures is due to new displacements caused by drought.

Dadaab complex currently houses 364,401 people, spread across 74,747 households. Among these, 274,274 people are officially registered and verified, with 94,192 individuals profiled and awaiting registration under the jurisdiction of the Department of Refugee Services (DRS).

"These statistics remind us that behind each number is a human story, a story of resilience, hope, and aspiration. These stories recount the experiences of countless individuals who embarked on journeys of migration, driven by determination and the unwavering spirit of survival," he said.

The Shirika Plan is the Government's resolve to empower refugees and host communities and embodies the lessons of the long and protracted refugee hosting history.

Mudavadi was speaking at the 74th session of the Executive Committee of High Commissioners (EXCOM) programme in Geneva, Switzerland.

"I carry with me the wisdom of refugees and host communities' stories that are a reminder that Kenya's history is intertwined with migration, challenges, and opportunities. It is a legacy that inspires our nation's approach to refugee management, that is, a commitment to transition from traditional camps to integrated settlements under the visionary Shirika plan," he said.

Despite the challenges, Mudavadi said the Refugee Act No. 10 of 2021, contains transformative changes that align with the Global Compact for Refugees localized in Kenya through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.

He said the Act also safeguards the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers, and host communities and clearly defines responsibilities among players, government, partners and stakeholders.

Mudavadi explained that the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) of 2020 known as the Social Economic Sharing by Host and Refugees (SHARE) has paved way for the Shirika plan.

"The Refugee Regulations 2023 will operationalize the Refugee Act of 2021, the CRRF, and other government policies on refugees. It means having refugee data hosted in the Integrated Population Registration Services Master database," he said.

Mudavadi said the Government drafted a Refugee Education Policy under the National Education Management Integrated System (NEMIS) to ensure refugees fully access education services in compliance with the Djibouti Declaration on Refugee Education of 2019.

Similarly, the Kampala Declaration on jobs and livelihoods is progressively being implemented as empowerment opportunities are enhanced through skilling and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy.

He also assured that the Government has improved infrastructure, with Kakuma and Dadaab towns promoted to full municipality status, facilitating rapid access to government services for both refugees and Kenyan host communities.

"The Government is set to develop and maintain refugee database for planning purposes to further socio-economic inclusion, participation and contribution by the refugees," he stated.

The progress made notwithstanding, Mudavadi stated the ongoing conflicts and security issues in neighbouring nations contribute to the unending refugee inflows and protracted refugee situations, increasing uncertainty among refugees and asylum-seekers.

"There is also the absence of a comprehensive national policy on refugee management in Kenya. This goes hand in hand with the lack of database, which hamper government oversight and restrict refugees' access to essential services," he said.

Similarly, inadequate funding for crucial services further compounds the situation and impacts the government's ability to respond effectively on services of reception, registration and documentation, hence posing risks to national security and refugee protection efforts.

He also said durable solutions like voluntary repatriation remain elusive due to the on going violent conflicts and instability in countries of origin, while resettlement options offered by developed countries are barely enough for most refugees.

"Refugee camps like Kakuma and Dadaab grapple with significant environmental challenges due to high population density, limited resources, and inadequate infrastructure. These complex issues underscore the need for comprehensive and strategic responses to ensure the well-being of both refugees and host communities," he said.

He explained that Kenya is focusing on refugees and host communities in the new policy approach because it has been hosting refugees for many years and the situation is no ending.

For years, Mudavadi noted that development partners' support tends to make the lives of refugees seem better than those of host communities, a scenario that has led to feelings of exclusion and unfairness in the distribution of resources, necessitating innovative approaches like Shirika plan.

"The Shirika plan aims to ease the pressure on refugee-hosting communities in Garissa, Turkana, and urban areas by mobilizing additional financial, technical, and material support in the spirit of responsibility-sharing and enhancing refugee and host-community harmony," he assured.

He said the government is ready to progressively implement Shirika plan in yearly cumulative sector funding by the partners.

"We seek to actualise the ultimate integrated settlements for host communities and refugees. Kenya will be making definite commitments and pledges per sector during the Second GRF December 2023 here in Geneva," he said.

He urged the social impact organizations to invest in these new frontiers as they also present business opportunities that private sector should leverage on.