As of September 2017, almost half a million registered refugees and asylum seekers are being hosted in Kenya, of whom 64,208 are in urban areas (mainly Nairobi). Leaving one’s country and becoming a refugee is usually a person’s last resort; HRDs most commonly become refugees due to insecurity related to their human rights work.
In a host city like Nairobi, exiled human rights defenders (EHRDs) face a series of challenges that are unique or heightened for EHRDs, including security and protection threats. Moreover, these individuals often continue to engage in human rights work, both with their communities here in Kenya as well as challenging the actions of their home country, which puts them at risk.
Recognising the many challenges facing EHRDs and building on Defend Defenders’ 2016 ground-breaking report, Exiled and in Limbo: Support Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, PBI Kenya decided to further explore the situation of defenders in exile in Nairobi. The opportunity was taken to consider the mechanisms through which various organisations and institutions providing assistance could improve their support for this unique group. PBI Kenya organised a series of four workshops between November 2016 and March 2017. The workshop series provided the space for various stakeholders to discuss the challenges they experience as well as potential ways forward. Participation included EHRDs from the region, as well as a number of ‘service providers’, i.e. human rights and refugee NGOs, diplomatic missions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and representatives from the Kenyan government. These workshops, led to the report Enhancing Support for Exiled Human Rights Defenders in Nairobi, which was launched in July with a panel discussion. The panel included representatives from the EHRD community, Amnesty International and PBI Kenya.
We hope that this report is another step towards concrete actions that fall under the capacities and expertise of all the organisations who, like PBI Kenya, are committed to protecting EHRDs and strengthening their ability to continue their efforts in exile.