Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

By: Anna Crowe

The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released two briefing papers on September 13 highlighting the importance of freedom of movement and business documentation for refugees living in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp and the associated Kalobeyei settlement. Kakuma and Kalobeyei are home to close to 186,000 refugees, and Kakuma camp itself is one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

Under Kenyan law, all refugees are required to live in and remain within designated refugee camps – to leave a camp without permission is a criminal offence. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugees: The Importance of Freedom of Movement” explores the ways in which movement restrictions affect the lives and livelihoods of Kakuma’s refugees and limit their opportunities to participate in the local economy and Kenyan society. It seeks to encourage local and national actors to consider alternatives to Kenya’s current encampment policy and rethink existing practices around the temporary movement regime in place in the camps, which refugees described as opaque, arbitrary, and unpredictable.

Formal work and employment opportunities are largely inaccessible to Kakuma’s refugees, and most rely on humanitarian assistance as their primary form of support. Nonetheless, Kakuma has a thriving informal economy and a sizeable number of refugees run informal businesses there, providing goods and services to other refugees, as well as the local community. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugee Traders: The Importance of Business Documentation in an Informal Economy” focuses on refugees running businesses in the camp and their experiences obtaining mandatory local government-issued business permits. It aims to contribute to ongoing discussions on how to ensure that business permit practices help refugees to safely run businesses and support refugees to exercise their right to work.

The briefing papers are part of a longer-term collaboration with NRC, which in 2017 included examining the documentation challenges refugees living in Nairobi face. Clinic students Haroula Gkotsi JD’19, Niku Jafarnia JD’19, Alexandra Jumper JD‘18, Daniel Levine-Spound JD’19, Julius Mitchell JD’19, and Sara Oh JD’19 worked on the briefing papers, including through desk research and fieldwork.