Due to its geographical location, Kenya continues to host hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries. Kakuma town in Turkana County has hosted Kakuma Refugee camp since 1992. The camp was established to accommodate refugees from Sudan but was later expanded and accommodates refugees from other neighbouring countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia among others. According to UNHCR statistics, as of May 2016, the Kakuma Refugee Camp hosts 192,218 refugees.
Resettlement programming is the backbone of IOM Kenya’s Operations and the Nairobi office currently provides operational support to refugees departing from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Through Government sponsored and family reunification programs these refugees are resettled to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands.
The refugee resettlement process is initiated by UNHCR or by the country of resettlement. IOM does not provide refugees with access to resettlement programs; rather we serve as an operational partner for processing and movements.
At the request of the receiving states, IOM Nairobi provides pre-departure health assessments to refugees approved for resettlement. The objective is to better manage the potential public health implications in receiving communities as a result of population mobility; facilitate the integration of refugees through disease detection and cost effective management of these conditions, as well as to provide useful data on the medical condition of in-coming refugees. The migrant’s health is assessed either by IOM or a panel of doctors as per the requests of the resettlement country governments. Pre-departure treatment for conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections is also offered to ensure that refugees are fit to travel. Medical escorts are arranged for refugees who require assistance and care during the journey.
Pre-departure orientation is the information provided to migrants before their move to another country; either for resettlement, as is the case with refugees, or for work, as is the case with labour migrants. This orientation helps migrants gain knowledge, acquire skills, and develop the positive attitudes needed for a smooth transition to their new environment.
Pre-departure orientation aims at facilitating the smooth settlement and integration of all migrants. It provides refugees, for instance, with information about their travel and about the reception services available in the country of resettlement. It also provides a wealth of general and specific information about climate, geography, education, health, housing, employment and how to adapt and integrate in their new home.
For anyone moving to a different country where life and culture differs from their own, pre-departure orientation helps migrants to know what to expect when they arrive in the resettlement or host country. The primary purpose of the pre-departure orientation programme is to ensure the smooth adaptation of migrants in the initial period following arrival in the resettlement or host country.
From Kenya, training sessions are conducted for refugees resettling to Australia and Canada, with smaller numbers going to the United Kingdom. Sessions are conducted at the Refugee Camps in Dadaab and Kakuma as well in Nairobi and are usually 3 to 5 days long.
Pre-departure orientation sessions are also conducted in collaboration with the Youth Enterprise Development Fund in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, targeting Kenyan youth labour migrants destined to work in various parts of the world; predominantly to the Middle East.
IOM Kenya’s Operations Unit assists in resettling refugees by providing them with safe and dignified travel from Kenya to their final destination. IOM currently works with Governments of the receiving countries to establish timelines for refugee arrivals. Once quotas are established, IOM works like a travel agency to make domestic and international airline bookings. IOM has agreements with over 30 airlines and strives to find efficient and cost effective bookings for the departing refugees.
Once the refugees have been booked to depart, the Operations Unit works with the National Registration Board and the Department of Refugee Affairs to have exit permits issued for departing refugees.
When all documents are in order the refugees depart from Kakuma and Dadaab and are brought to Nairobi by air or road. IOM operates a transit center in Nairobi and it is here that refugees have a final pre-departure health assessment and receive additional cultural orientation classes. The refugees are issued clothing and supplies needed for travel and after a few days’ rest, they depart for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for onward flights to countries of destination.
IOM Nairobi has operational staff working at the JKIA who assists the departing refugees. As most IOM passengers have never been on an International airline or to an airport such as JKIA, they are assisted with check in, luggage formalities, security and at the Immigration Counter. To ease their transition through JKIA, the IOM staff prepares all documents needed for refugee departures.
Those refugees requiring assistance during travel will be provided an escort to travel with them from Kenya to their final destination.
Besides its refugee programmes, IOM also to extended its support to the host community; this was in view of creating a bridge and harmony between the refugees and the communities that host them. IOM has in this regard implemented various human rights based projects, in Turkana County. These projects have played pivotal roles in uplifting the standard of life of communities.