From Co-option, Coercion to Refoulement: Why the Repatriation of Refugees from Kenyan Refugee Camps Is Neither Voluntary Nor Dignified

  • Dulo Nyaoro
Part of the Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development book series (AAESPD)


In UNHCR language the last three decades have been the years of voluntary repatriation. As one of the three pillars of durable solution for the refugee situation, voluntary repatriation has been promoted as the most desirable and acceptable solution. However, maintaining the voluntary character of repatriation is problematic amid competing national interests and international legal obligations. While voluntary repatriation was conceived as a durable solution for asylum, it has now become a political tool. Refugees and humanitarian organizations have balked at the way governments operationalize voluntary repatriation. Repatriation of refugees now happens even when the situations in the countries of origin remain insecure. This contribution argues that to speed the process of voluntary repatriation of refugees, the Kenyan government has adopted practices and tactics that undermine the very voluntary character and spirit of repatriation. These include co-opting humanitarian agencies, inducement of refugees to return, and outright coercion through issuance of deadlines of camp closures. Besides troubling judicial rulings and belligerent pronouncement from government officials, co-option includes scaling down of services, reduction of personnel by agencies, and closure of schools in the camps with promise of relocating to countries of origin. Donors are requested to redirect funding. All these combine to make repatriation appear more as an imperative rather than a choice in the eyes of refugees.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dulo Nyaoro
    • 1
  1. 1.Peace Institute, Moi UniversityEldoretKenya

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