The European Business Council for Africa

Speech delivered by Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson

Ms President, Honourable Members,

Thank you for this debate that I take on behalf of the High Representative/Vice-President [Josep] Borrell.

Kenya is a key partner of the European Union and a pillar of stability in a troubled East Africa. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President [of Kenya, Uhuru] Kenyatta have decided in June 2021 to further deepen the European Union-Kenya relations by launching a strategic dialogue on issues and agendas of common interest.

The European Union and Kenya share common values and principles, and the European Union recognises and appreciates Kenya’s long history of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees and providing protection to those fleeing persecution, conflict and other forms of insecurity.

The European Union recognises the challenge faced by Kenyan authorities in hosting a large number of refugees and and shares the understanding that, for many refugees, the best durable solution will be voluntary and sustainable return to their home country.

Still, the announced closure of Kakuma and other refugee camps in Kenya is a matter of great concern. For two main reasons: because the security situation in many parts of South Sudan and Somalia, where most refugees living in Kakuma come from, does not seem conducive to their safe return; and because it is essential to avoid massive secondary displacement or further destabilisation in the region.

We are confident in Kenya’s will to continue to uphold its international commitments as it faces this challenging moment.

Keeping open the right to seek asylum in Kenya is essential and the resumption of new asylum seekers’ registration is a positive sign.

But it is important to give refugees access to basic services and enable them to live safe and productive lives. It is also essential to protect refugees rights, including of those belonging to vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors and LGBTQI, as many of you have raised it here in the debate in a very good way.

On the attacks against LGBTQI refugees, I can tell you that the European External Action Service has closely monitored last spring’s incidents and the response given by the Kenyan authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We are consulting partners on the existing challenges for LGBTQI persons and exploring possible additional measures for their protection.

Together with UNHCR and the international partners, the European Union will continue seeking orderly and sustainable solutions that respect refugees’ rights.

We will also see how we can step up on resettlement – also mentioned by many of you.

On the 9th of July this year, I hosted a High-Level Resettlement Forum, where the European Union, together with the United States and Canada, agreed to step up on our ambitions to give protections to refugees through the UNHCR resettlement scheme.

Moreover, we will continue supporting the government of Kenya in providing protection and assistance to refugees in the country, as well as funding development-oriented projects targeting refugees and host communities. We will also continue supporting countries of origin in creating conditions for sustainable return and reintegration of refugees.

Thank you.