• Léa Natacha Christine Clapier
  • Julie Astrid Winterø
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)
This paper explores the conditions under which refugees live in Nairobi, Kenya. Departing from a state level analysis, it is given that the particular relationship that Kenya has politically and historically with its neighbour Somalia spills over in a political securitization of all Somalis in Kenya. It is argued that this further spills over to the whole of the refugee population in Kenya, thus also the urban refugees in Nairobi. For over two decades, Kenya has been hosting a significant refugee population. The high amount of refugees paired with repetitive terror attacks have resulted in a hostile management of refugees. As a consequence, the encampment policy depicts all refugees in Kenya as potential criminals and that have to stay in the designated camp areas.
From this perspective where urban refugees are de facto illegal, it is explored how they develop coping mechanisms to reduce their vulnerability and to better cope under these circumstances; discrimination, illegal status, poor protection and assistance. In other words, this paper continues the analysis at the civil society level, where social change and social mobilisation are scrutinised in relation to how urban refugees are adapting and by that impacting the host society. The intention is to underline the exceptional resilience this group of people is capable of exercising and to what extent their contribution to the society is changing and sometimes benefiting local environments and people. The social and economic spheres are analysed to evaluate in what ways they can be seen as being integrated into the society yet deeply excluded from it. The complexity of the urban refugees’ presence in the city is stressed and questioned.
The two levels of analysis described in the above are useful to get an in-depth picture of the situation. This paper explores, on the one hand, the interface between the state of Kenya and the refugees by analysing policy, history and political discourses. On the other hand, it explores, at the level of the civil society, the coping mechanisms developed by the refugees living in Nairobi. Overall, this paper seeks to understand the experiences of urban refugees by examining their own actions and perceptions in response to the policy and political context in Kenya.
It is concluded that the urban refugees are finding creative ways to adapt to the environment in Nairobi; e.g. engaging in informal work and negotiating the police’s authority. It is shown that the urban refugees develop both negative and positive coping mechanisms, where a negative coping mechanism is the act of staying inside most of the day and hiding from the police. A positive coping mechanism that the urban refugees in Nairobi have developed is the informal work and trade that contribute to the local economy.
Two general issues are argued and assumed throughout the paper: Somalis are a particular case in Kenya and the securitization of them spills over to the rest of the refugee population. Somali refugees share the same living conditions as the rest of the urban refugees (of same socio-economic status), and are treated in the same way in Nairobi.
Publication date1 Jun 2015
Number of pages90
ID: 213266624