Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace at Home

December 16,2014

EASTLEIGH, KENYA— Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya.

Twenty-two year old Ahmed Shaciye runs a clothing business in Eastleigh, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Four years ago, he and two friends combined their resources to import clothes from Dubai and China and sell them at a profit. Their thriving enterprise draws in customers from all over the area.

What's notable about their success is the fact that Shaciye is a Somali refugee. He fled Mogadishu seven years ago but says he plans to return someday to rebuild his country. "Somalia, there’s fighting always, there are terrorists, and it isn’t a peaceful place," he said. "It is not a place to live; now that we are here in Kenya we live and work here. When Somalia becomes peaceful we will go back home."

Eastleigh or ‘small Mogadishu,’ is home to thousands of Somali migrants. Most, who have attained legal status, are either second or third generation Kenyan Somalis.

Journalist Asaid Hassan fled the Hodan District in Somalia in 2006 at the height of the al-Shabab insurrection. Hassan worked at Horn Afrika Radio, which was taken over by extremists.

Today Hassan works at Star FM, which is based in Eastleigh. The radio station covers Kenya and parts of Somalia. He says he and other Somalis face similar challenges living in Kenya.

"Number one is the ethnic profiling. Also there’s lack of documentation, we have come [stayed] here for so long and we have a problem of getting the proper identification in Kenya and when we come across the police they ask us ‘Why we don’t have it,'" Hassan noted.

Two weeks ago the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, in collaboration with UNHCR, began the voluntary repatriation of 94 Somali refugees from Kenya, 23 years after conflict and famine drove them from their homeland. The process is supported by Somalia.

Michael Pillinger, the Senior Operations Officer and Programs Coordinator, says the refugees are provided humane treatment. “IOM with other partners such as UNHCR, the government of Kenya and other organizations, ensures that refugees that are coming to Kenya have all the adequate services available to them in relation to their concerns or whether in transit or they are for a given time allowed to stay in Kenya until the situation is resolved..”

As the world marks International Migrants Day on December 18, IOM is looking towards its post-2015 development plan to ease the poverty of the migrants in Kenya.