Kenya is in a major dilemma between opening borders for asylum seekers and refugees and closing the country in a bid to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) which has claimed thousands of lives across the globe.
A coalition of international, national, and refugee-led organizations in the Horn, East, and Central Africa (HECA) Monday called on governments in the region to reopen borders for asylum seekers.
The organizations say that governments can put in place measures that manage the current health emergency while still ensuring asylum seekers can get their lives saved.
“While countries in the region are faced with a genuine public health emergency, governments, with support from international partners, must find solutions that respect international human rights and refugee law commitments, including the right to seek asylum. Governments should consider measures such as medical screening or testing, preventative and time-bound quarantine facilities at border crossing points to allow access to asylum seekers,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
Before the pandemic, Kenya was a safe haven for people seeking safety and protection from violence and conflict, political persecution, or other threats to their lives.
The main problem is that the closure of borders contravenes international refugee law by denying people in need of international protection an effective opportunity to seek asylum.
They also violate the principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits states from turning away people at a border and returning them to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or danger.
The organizations are now urging the country to develop procedures and policies that will allow movement across borders for individuals wanting to seek asylum.