Celebrating 20 Years of Serving Refugees in Kenya 

By Jessica Masibo

Communications Officer, HIAS Kenya

Celebrating 20 Years of Serving Refugees in Kenya 

On June 20, 2022, the Legal Protection team led HIAS’ participation in the commemoration of World Refugee Day. The activities focused on the provisions of the new Refugee Act and the promotion of refugee integration in Kenya. (Jessica Masibo/HIAS)

HIAS operations in Kenya began in 2002 with the launch of the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya. This was in response to a critical gap in resettlement case processing for refugees who — coming from nearby countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo sought safety in Kenya after fleeing from discrimination and violence. Prior to the inception of HIAS Kenya, many of these refugees, especially those living in urban areas, were unable to access resettlement as a durable solution. HIAS Kenya was formed to assist urban refugees in resettlement to safer countries. Relying solely on referrals from partners to minimize the risk of fraud, the resettlement department came into being and HIAS Kenya became fully operational.

HIAS Kenya staffer Abdurahman Haji talks to Oromia Aden at her rented house in Eastleigh, Nairobi. (Brian Otieno for HIAS)

Male refugees fill out a questionnaire at a HIAS workshop discussing stigma and sexual and gender-based violence at a workshop to sensitize male refugees in Nairobi, Kenya on November 20, 2013. (Glenna Gordon for HIAS)

On November 29, 2022, HIAS Kenya participated in a joint commemoration of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence in Githurai, Kenya. The event launched with a walk and an official event in a local church where refugees showcased their dances, skits, and fashion. (Jessica Masibo/HIAS)

Nyota Mpenda, 16, arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, alone after fleeing rape and war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. HIAS was able to place her with a foster family and they visit regularly to support her and her foster mother. November 20, 2013. (Glenna Gordon for HIAS)

Many of the refugees required counseling after arriving in Kenya to deal with traumatic experiences they may have faced back in their home countries and while in transit. In response, in 2006 HIAS programming expanded from just resettlement to include mental health and psychosocial support.  

In the years since its inception, HIAS Kenya has seen the number of staff grow from the initial 10 people to 127. We have also established site offices in Kayole, Eastleigh, and Kawangware, areas in Nairobi where most refugee communities live, to better accommodate our clients’ needs.  

HIAS Kenya has also seen its partnerships grow from four organizations to the current 50 and has welcomed the establishment of four core programs with over 60 different regular activities.  

 “We acknowledge the very special role that refugees and persons of concern have continued to play in shaping our growth,” said Doris Kawira, country director of HIAS Kenya, in recognition of the group’s 20th anniversary. “We will continue to keep them at the heart of our operations in line with our mission, vision, and values.”

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