Author: Foni Joyce, UNHCR Global Refugee Youth Advisory Council*

This working paper acknowledges that EU programmes providing humanitarian aid for refugees in Kenya have been beneficial to refugees and host communities. However, it argues that these programmes view affected populations only as beneficiaries thereby hampering their meaningful participation as partners. To address this challenge, the paper recommends that refugees and hosts should be involved in the development of programmes and that programme staff should improve their capacity to work with and for them.

The significant support to Kenya and the cooperation between the EU and Kenya on tackling root causes of forced displacement, peacebuilding, security, employment and voluntary return of refugees and asylum seekers, has been developed without the involvement of refugees and host communities. The paper highlights the lack of information, transparency and accountability of EU pogrammes. While affected communities are consulted when data is collected, they are very often missed out when it comes to feedback and a more substantive exchange is needed. As refugee-led actions are not funded by the EU, innovative solutions, which may be aligned with EU priorities, risk turning into missed opportunities.

The EU is supporting the roll out of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Kenya. The paper argues that interventions are largely designed for survival rather than self-reliance, which means that young refugees, who constitute the majority of Kenya’s refugee population, have limited access to opportunities and are left in limbo. For instance, while there has been increased educational enrolment at all levels, only one sixth of refugees have access to tertiary education.

The paper also outlines that cooperation on security without the inclusion of affected communities in program design and implementation can lead to adverse results and increase insecurity, discrimination and harassment based on ethnicity.

The Kalobeyi refugee settlement, which is supported by the EU Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa, is cited as a positive approach to promote the self-reliance of refugees and host communities and is addressing previously felt competition for resources between the two groups.

The paper includes a number of recommendations to support inclusion of and cooperation with refugees and communities hosting them. It suggests that the EU must implement proper support mechanisms, which involve affected persons alongside the financial support it provides. In addition, capacity development training is needed to improve the programme staff’s understanding on how to work with and for affected communities.

The paper included more detailed suggestions on how the EU should work with the Kenyan government to facilitate refugees’ integration in the national labor market and local economies in a way that benefits both refugees and the Kenyan community. Other recommendations relate to the need to foster peace-building processes and expanding complementary pathways to resettlement.


* Foni Joyce Vuni is originally from South Sudan but now lives in Kenya with her family after her parents fled from South Sudan. She is an advocate for forcibly displaced women and youth. She is the current Co-chair to the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council that serves as a consultative group on issues relating to the protection and development of the young people that UNHCR works with globally, including those who are internally displaced and stateless. The Council also represents the voices of the young people that UNHCR works with and for, ensuring that their perspectives are heard, considered and incorporated into the work of UNHCR at national, regional and global levels. Foni Joyce Vuni’s dream is to improve the identity, image and reputation of refugees, IDPs, stateless and other persons of concerns in the community.

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