PBI Kenya recently hosted two events with a view to inform on how to better support Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who find themselves in exile in Kenya.

A day-long intense workshop with HRDs from Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia was followed by a dialogue meeting with service providers. A third event is planned for March and will provide further opportunities for dialogue between exiled HRDs, service providers, the international community and authorities.

The first day had exiled HRDs participate in a workshop focussing on the challenges they face while in exile in Kenya. Challenges identified include social isolation, prolonged refugee status determination processes and connected to the latter, the inability to access various basic services which require relevant documents exiled persons often don’t have and can’t request from their country of origin.

While many of these challenges are not limited to HRDs in exile but in fact apply to refugees in general, they have even more detrimental effects on exiled HRDs who have often taken high personal risks advocating for human rights in their home country and are trying their utmost to continue their work while in exile. Unclear perspectives for their future have further detrimental effects on both, their psychosocial wellbeing and their human rights work.

The stakeholder meeting, held the day after the workshop with exiled HRDs, brought identified challenges and support gaps to the attention of a group of refugee and human rights NGOs as well as UNHCR. The meeting provided a platform for fruitful discussions on best practices and shortcomings among the various stakeholders and will inform future support for HRDs in exile. It became obvious that a lot is being done to support exiled HRDs but that improved coordination and cooperation among stakeholders could lead to enhanced support and ensure that exiled HRDs don’t fall through the cracks.

With our third meeting in March we hope to further the discussion, understanding and cooperation among the various stakeholders to continue developing better placed support system for exiled HRDs in line with their identified needs.