Briefing note

Supporting Kakuma’s refugees - The importance of freedom of movement

Published 13. Sep 2018|Updated 24. Nov 2023
In Kenya there remain more than 480,000 registered refugees, with most forced to live and remain in refugee camps located in marginalised and isolated parts of the country.

The importance of freedom of movement
Kakuma refugee camp and nearby Kalobeyei settlement in Turkana County in north-western Kenya today host close to 186,000 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Burundi and Sudan amongst others. Many have spent years or even decades in camps, dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs, unable to move freely due to Kenya’s encampment policy and facing barriers to earn income through employment, business or trade.

In 2017, Kenya became a pilot country for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, which is supposed to create a new way of supporting and managing refugees. Kenya has also signed up to a number of commitments to new ways of hosting refugees as part of the Intergovernmental Development Authority Nairobi Declaration. NRC Kenya has partnered with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic to publish two briefing papers looking at the challenges of obtaining movement passes and the importance of business permits in the Kakuma context.

This research and the recommendations will contribute to broader discussions related to policy changes that can allow refugees in Kenya to be self-reliant, and contribute effectively to the economies of the Counties in which they are hosted, while they wait for a more durable solution.

Access to movement passes: A roadmap to self-reliance for refugee entrepreneurs In Dadaab
According to UNHCR, an estimated 5,000 movement permits are issued every year, many of these, for refugees attending school outside of the camps. Unfortunately, the same is not extended to entrepreneurs and business owners. In 2019, NRC undertook a focus group discussion with business owners and entrepreneurs in IFO, Dadaab, Dagahaley and Hagadera to understand barriers refugees and host community businesses face in the camps. The sentiments among participants were the same across the camps, that they are not considered for application of movement passes and for the Bamba Chakula traders the period the period allocated by RAS is too short for the entrepreneurs and business owners to purchase quality goods while identifying new suppliers outside of the designated camps while avoiding the risk and cost of brokers.

This brief therefore, seeks to enlighten policy bearers and stakeholders on the need to consider including entrepreneurs and business owners in the priority bracket of persons who easily access movement passes as well as, review the period business owners and entrepreneurs can be away from the designated areas in search of products, raw materials and obtaining these items for the best price.