Kenya

1,000

Immigration detainees

2015

250

Detained children

2017

12,884

New asylum applications

2019

438,899

Refugees

2019

1,044,854

International migrants

2019

Overview

(March 2009) Kenya is a major destination country for migrants and refugees in the Horn of Africa. While many refugees settle in urban areas, the country has large refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. Kenya also is a transit country for migrants intending to travel to South Africa. In recent years Kenyan authorities, citing concerns over terrorism, have carried out security operations resulting in the arrest and detention of large numbers of migrants and refugees.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

05 May 2020

Aerial View of the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, (Thomas Mukoya, Reuters,
Aerial View of the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, (Thomas Mukoya, Reuters, "Two Refugees Explain What Covid-19 Means in Their Precarious World," World Economic Forum, 10 April 2020, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/covid-19-poses-its-own-set-of-challenges-for-refugees/)

Irregular migrants in Kenya are detained in immigration holding facilities, but also in prisons or in general police custody. The conditions in Kenya’s prisons are worrying, as migrants may face assault and sexual abuse, with limited legal assistance. The National Council for the Administration of Justice announced on 2 April the release of 4,000 prisoners convicted of minor offenses.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm over the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, pointing to a surge in police violence and exceedingly strict containment measures. On 29 April, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights accused Kenyan authorities of using quarantine as punishment. The commission said that ‘’the rounding up of citizens by security agents for breaking the curfew rules is likely to exacerbate the pandemic.’’

Since 27 March 2020, a countrywide curfew was put in place to combat Covid-19 outbreaks. Individuals are not allowed to leave their homes from 7pm to 5am and any transgression of this measure may result in imprisonment. It is also mandatory to wear a face mask in public and the non-respect of this rule may lead to a fine up to 20,000 KES and imprisonment for up to six months. In Kakuma refugee camp, which hosts more than 194,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the curfew also applies. Kenyan authorities announced on 26 April a 21 days extension of the curfew.

The Kenyan Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed soaps along with devices to wash hands in prisons. Along with these sanitary measures, visits in prisons are suspended until 11 May. The Nairobi prison has been under full lockdown since 28 March, a decision which was met with protests from prison staff.


Last updated: March 2009

Kenya Immigration Detention Profile

    Kenya is a major destination country for migrants and refugees in the Horn of Africa. While many refugees settle in urban areas, the country has large refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma.[1] Kenya is also a major source and transit county for migrants and asylum seekers intending to travel to South Africa. According to one “conservative” estimate, some 1,000 people are placed in immigration detention annually.[2]

    The 2011 Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act regulates the country’s immigration policy. Under the Act, migrants who unlawfully enter or remain in Kenya have committed a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to USD 5,500 and/or imprisonment of up to three years. Newly arrived asylum-seekers are excluded from this provision in the Act.[3]

    The Act also provides that irregular migrants can be detained in immigration holding facilities, prisons, or in general police custody depending on where they are apprehended.[4]  One issue with Kenya’s immigration-related detention practices is that migrants are often detained multiple times (“re-detention”), in part because of the non-existence of a deportation or repatriation system. Migrants detained in Kenya’s prisons face poor conditions, including assault, sexual abuse, limited legal assistance, and a poor diet. However, the government does permit local human rights groups and consular representatives to visit the prisons.[5]

    In recent years, the Kenyan government has conducted a series of “anti-terror” operations that have resulted in the arrest and detention of large numbers of foreigners. These operations are partially motivated by an increase in attacks occurring within the country. During an operation in April 2014, more than 4,000 foreigners were arrested and detained, the majority of whom were refugees and asylum seekers. Amnesty International (AI) reported that during the operation, payment was demanded from detainees in order to be released. Somali refugees told AI that they faced “beatings and unlawful detention at the hands of security forces conducting house-to-house searches in predominantly Somali neighbourhoods.” Some of the detainees were taken to the Kasarani football stadium, where they were held in a form of ad hoc detention as their documents were checked.[6]

    Increasing numbers of cross-border attacks by the Somalia-based Al Shabaab have spurred a number of additional new security measures in Kenya that make migrant and refugees vulnerable to arrest and detention. For instance, the government plans to construct a new road and additional border crossings and barriers along its border with Somalia.[7]

    Migrant children have also been detained during security raids. The Integrated Regional Information Network estimates that during the April 2014 operation about 300 children, including babies, were separated from their parents, who had also been arrested during security operations.[8] Many children were held in overcrowded cells with men and women.[9]

    As of March 2015, Kenya hosted more than 580,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia, South Sudan, and Ethiopia.[10] Somalis account for more than 70 percent of refugee and asylum seekers in Kenya, and the community has faced discrimination, including government calls for them to return to Somalia despite the on-going conflict and threat of persecution in that country.[11]

    Under Kenya’s Refugee Act 2006, asylum-seekers have 30 days to register after crossing into Kenya. A lack of documentation and difficulty in determining the date of crossing can sometimes lead to the arrest of asylum seekers. In addition, the Refugee Act provides refugees with a right to a fair hearing. However, due to language barriers and a lack of knowledge on the part of law enforcement officers, the rights provided for are largely ignored.[12] There have also been numerous reports of police and other officials confiscating refugee documents, leaving refugees vulnerable to detention.[13]

    The Kenyan government has issued multiple directives requiring refugees to leave urban areas and move to camps. Since the issuance of a directive in December 2012, harassment of refugees by law enforcement officers in urban areas has reportedly increased dramatically. Such harassment includes arbitrary arrests and illegal detention.[14] According to the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, harassment of refugees in the form of abuse and violence has been well documented.[15]

     

    [1] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2015 UNHCR Country Operations Profile—Kenya, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e483a16.html.

    [2] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, Behind Bars: The Detention of Migrants in and from the East & Horn of Africa, 2015, http://www.regionalmms.org/.

    [3] Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, http://www.nairobi.diplo.de/contentblob/3356358/Daten/1788002/d_KenyanCitizenship_No12_of_2011.pdf.

    [4] Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, http://www.nairobi.diplo.de/contentblob/3356358/Daten/1788002/d_KenyanCitizenship_No12_of_2011.pdf.

    [5] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, Behind Bars: The Detention of Migrants in and from the East & Horn of Africa, 2015, http://www.regionalmms.org/.

    [6] Amnesty International, “Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees,” 11 April 2014, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/04/kenya-somalis-placed-catch-amid-crackdown-refugees/.

    [7] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, “Regional Mixed Migration Summary for March 2015,” 2015, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/RMMS_Mixed_Migration_Summary_March_2015.pdf.

    [8] Integrated Regional Information Network, “Kenyan Police Operation Strands 300 Children,” 20 June 2014, http://www.irinnews.org/report/100246/kenyan-police-operation-strands-300-children.

    [9] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, Behind Bars: The Detention of Migrants in and from the East & Horn of Africa, 2015, http://www.regionalmms.org/.

    [10] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, “Regional Mixed Migration Summary for March 2015,” 2015, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/RMMS_Mixed_Migration_Summary_March_2015.pdf.

    [11] Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Unsafe for Refugees to Return,” 30 March 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/30/kenya-somalia-unsafe-refugees-return.

    [12] Lucy Kiama and Dennis Likule, “Detention in Kenya: Risks for Refugees and Asylum Seekers,” Forced Migration Review, September 2013, http://www.fmreview.org/detention/kiama-likule.

    [13] Amnesty International, “Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees,” 11 April 2014, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/04/kenya-somalis-placed-catch-amid-crackdown-refugees/.

    [14] Lucy Kiama and Dennis Likule, “Detention in Kenya: Risks for Refugees and Asylum Seekers,” Forced Migration Review, September 2013, http://www.fmreview.org/detention/kiama-likule.

    [15] Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, Behind Bars: The Detention of Migrants in and from the East & Horn of Africa, 2015, http://www.regionalmms.org/.

    ENFORCEMENT DATA

    Total Detainees/ Stock & Flow (Year)
    1,000
    2015
    Total Entries/Flow (year)
    0
    Alternative Total Entries/Flow (year)
    0
    Average Daily Population (year)
    0
    Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
    250
    2017
    20
    2015
    Criminal Prison Population (Year)
    53,841
    2016
    53,163
    2013
    52,000
    2012
    49,757
    2010
    45,271
    2007
    52,000
    2004
    38,739
    2001
    33,610
    1998
    41,064
    1996
    28,914
    1992
    Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
    0.6
    2013
    Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
    114
    2016
    121
    2014
    121
    2012
    121
    2010
    119
    2007
    149
    2004
    121
    2001
    113
    1998
    144
    1996
    115
    1992

    POPULATION DATA

    Population (Year)
    53,800,000
    2020
    46,050,000
    2015
    42,700,000
    2012
    International Migrants (Year)
    1,044,854
    2019
    1,084,400
    2015
    955,500
    2013
    International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
    2.4
    2015
    2.2
    2013
    Refugees (Year)
    438,899
    2019
    421,248
    2018
    431,901
    2017
    451,077
    2016
    553,912
    2015
    551,352
    2014
    Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
    9.55
    2016
    12.29
    2014
    12.06
    2013
    13.81
    2012
    New Asylum Applications (Year)
    12,884
    2019
    18,214
    2016
    21,519
    2014
    21,571
    2013
    21,242
    2012
    Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
    70.9
    2013
    Stateless Persons (Year)
    18,500
    2018
    20,000
    2016
    20,000
    2015

    SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

    Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
    1,358
    2014
    994
    2013
    Remittances to the Country
    1,480
    2014
    2,467
    2011
    Remittances From the Country
    58
    2010
    Unemployment Rate
    2014
    Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
    2,665.1
    2014
    Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
    145 (Low)
    2015
    147 (Low)
    2014
    Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration
    83
    2007

    B. Attitudes and Perceptions

    MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

    Detention-Related Legislation
    Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act (2011)
    2011

    GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    Criminal Penalties for Immigration-Related Violations
    Yes (Yes)
    2015
    Grounds for Criminal Immigration-Related Incarceration / Maximum Length of Incarceration
    Unlawful presence outside designated refugee camp
    2015
    Unauthorized entry (1095)
    2015
    Unauthorised stay (1095)
    2015
    Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
    Asylum seekers Yes
    2014
    Accompanied minors (Prohibited) Yes
    2014
    Unaccompanied minors (Prohibited) Yes
    2014

    LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

    MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

    Custodial Authorities
    (Kenyan Government)
    2008
    (Kenya Police)
    2007
    (Department of Immigration)
    2007
    (Kenya Police)
    2007
    Detention Facility Management
    UN High Commissioner for Refugees (International or Regional Organization)
    2008
    Kenyan Government (Governmental)
    2008
    Kenya Police (Governmental)
    2007
    Department of Immigration (Governmental)
    2007
    Formally Designated Detention Estate?
    Yes (Dedicated immigration detention facilities)
    2015
    Yes (Police stations)
    2015
    Yes (Criminal prisons)
    2015
    Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
    2015

    PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

    Procedural Standards
    Right to legal counsel Yes
    2016
    Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention Yes
    2016

    DETENTION MONITORS

    Names of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that Carry Out Detention Monitoring Visits
    Yes
    2016

    TRANSPARENCY

    READMISSION/RETURN/EXTRADITION AGREEMENTS

    COVID-19

    HEALTH CARE

    COVID-19 DATA

    INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

    International Treaties Ratified
    Ratification Year
    Observation Date
    CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    2008
    2008
    CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
    2005
    2005
    CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
    2005
    2005
    ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    2001
    2001
    CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    1997
    1997
    CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
    1990
    1990
    CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    1984
    1984
    PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
    1981
    1981
    ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    1972
    1972
    ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    1972
    1972
    CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
    1966
    1966
    VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
    1965
    1965
    Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
    Ratio: 12/19
    Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
    Observation Date
    0/6
    2017

    NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

    Relevant Recommendations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
    Observation Date
    No 2010
    2017
    No 2015
    2017

    REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

    Regional Legal Instruments
    Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
    Observation Date
    ACHPR, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1992
    1992
    ACRWC, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 2000
    2000
    APRW, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) 2010
    2010

    GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

    Legal Tradition(s)
    Customary law
    2017
    Common law
    2017
    Muslim law
    2017

    DETENTION COSTS

    OUTSOURCING

    FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR DETENTION OPERATIONS