Author: Leila Muriithia, Refugee Consortium of Kenya*

The working paper illustrates the breadth of cooperation that exists between the EU and Kenya and highlights that especially in the area of development cooperation more could be done to seize opportunities to advance the rights of refugees and migrants in the form of enhanced refugee status determination or access to work permits. It argues that the Refugee Bill is a possibility for the EU to engage with local civil society on advancing asylum and socio-economic integration in Kenya and provides detailed recommendations in this respect.

The paper includes an overview of EU cooperation with Kenya, spanning from development and security cooperation, humanitarian aid, trade and investment to diplomatic relations. It highlights that particularly in the realm of development assistance, there are opportunities for the EU to expand its impact on the rights of people seeking asylum in Kenya.

The paper argues that the EU’s past engagement in Kenya has had a positive impact with the support to judicial reform, which has enhanced access to justice being a case in point. As particularly relevant, the paper highlights EU funding for development approaches that support both refugees and the communities hosting them, such as in the case of Kalobeyei settlement. In addition, the EU’s support to resilience is welcome. However, as a result of various laws and administrative directives, asylum seekers and refugees are being excluded from reaping the benefits of the successful cooperation between the EU and Kenya, which should be addressed.

The author illustrates that the Kenyan Refugee Bill, which was subject to public participation in 2019 and for which a report is currently being prepared, provides a unique opportunity for the EU to engage with local civil society to promote and improve asylum spaces and increase the potential of socio-economic integration of refugees in Kenya. Such reform processes would also be in line with the pledges that the Kenyan government made during the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019.

The paper includes various recommendations that range from ways to address root causes of migration as well as areas where socio-economic integration of refugees could be expanded. In addition to the developments related to the Refugee Bill, where engagement of the EU in alliance and support of local civil society would be very relevant, the paper highlights more standardization of border management curriculums as a potential area of focus for the EU.


*Leila Muriithia Simiyu is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She works at the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK), a local NGO in Kenya, as a senior programmes officer and also heads the legal and psychosocial programme. Leila is passionate about the rights of the vulnerable in society. She helped in setting up a one- stop gender violence recovery centre in Garissa County and participates in lobbying for the development of a new refugee law in Kenya. She is also part of a technical committee that is comprised of members of the County Assembly of Turkana and RCK that aims to develop human rights based policies within the Turkana County among others.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.