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

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/.

DETENTION, EXPULSION, AND INCARCERATION STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
1,000
2015
Total number of detained minors
250
2017
20
2015
Criminal prison population
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
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

DEMOGRAPHICS AND IMMIGRATION-RELATED STATISTICS

Population
53,800,000
2020
46,050,000
2015
42,700,000
2012
International migrants
1,044,854
2019
1,084,400
2015
955,500
2013
International migrants as a percentage of the population
2.4
2015
2.2
2013
Refugees
438,899
2019
421,248
2018
431,901
2017
451,077
2016
553,912
2015
551,352
2014
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
9.55
2016
12.29
2014
12.06
2013
13.81
2012
Total number of new asylum applications
12,884
2019
18,214
2016
21,519
2014
21,571
2013
21,242
2012
Refugee recognition rate
70.9
2013
Stateless persons
18,500
2018
20,000
2016
20,000
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

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

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Customary law
2017
Common law
2017
Muslim law
2017
Core pieces of national legislation
Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act (2011)
2011
Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations?
Yes (Yes)
2015
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration
Unlawful presence outside designated refugee camp (0)
2015
Unauthorized entry (1095)
2015
Unauthorised stay (1095)
2015
Provision of basic procedural standards
Right to legal counsel () Yes
2016
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention () Yes
2016
Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice?
Asylum seekers () Yes
2014
Accompanied minors (Prohibited) Yes
2014
Unaccompanied minors (Prohibited) Yes
2014

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Ratio: 12/19
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
0/6
2017
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
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
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2010
2017
No 2015
2017

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS

Custodial authority
(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
Do NGOs carry out visits?
Yes
2016