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UN agency praises Kenya court for upholding refugee rights

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] praised [statement] the High Court of Kenya Tuesday for upholding [decision] the asylum right of urban refugees and expressed hope the government of Kenya will now resume legal services. Last week the High Court of Kenya ruled against a government directive to transfer refugees from urban areas to refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kabastated stated that the "decision is important for the jurisprudence on refugees' rights not only in Kenya but also around the world." Although the directive was never implemented, the UNHCR claims it already had dire consequences for the protection and well-being of refugee communities in Nairobi and other cities in the country, causing reports of police harassment, detention and extortion of urban Somali refugees and asylum seekers to rise. Legal services for refugees were put on hold when the directive was issued last December, but Lejeune-Kabastated expressed hope that legal services will resume. Of the 600,000 refugees in Kenya, 51,000 live in urban areas.

In April the UNHCR launched [JURIST report] a "mobile" court to serve refugee settlements in Uganda. The project is intended to provide quicker access to justice as well as a deterrent to crime in Nakivale, which is home to more than 68,000 refugees. Last November the UNHCR appealed [JURIST report] to all parties in the conflict in Democratic Republic of the Congo to avoid restricting access to the 31 refugee camps in the country. In September the UNHCR issued new international guidelines [JURIST report] as part of an effort to promote alternatives to detention such as surrender of documentation, periodic reporting to authorities, directed residence or residence at free-movement asylum centers, bail or bond requirements, and community supervision arrangements.

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