'Kenyans' paying millions to shed off refugee status

Wednesday February 11 2015

A registration officer displays some of the uncollected national IDs in Majengo, Mombasa, on May 4, 2010. Over 1500 people who applied for their National Identity Cards in Kwale County cannot be traced, a registrations official has said. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

A registration officer displays some of the uncollected national IDs in Majengo, Mombasa, on May 4, 2010. Over 1500 people who applied for their National Identity Cards in Kwale County cannot be traced, a registrations official has said. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

By ABDIMALIK HAJIR

Millions of shillings are changing hands between people seeking national identity cards and registration officials in northern Kenya, a task force investigating double registration heard on Tuesday.

The task force is seeking to establish the number of genuine Kenyans who registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees in the region.

More than 2,000 Somali Kenyans are among Kenyans who are registered as refugees in Dadaab refugee camps.

Presenting his views to the task force at Garissa Guest House, Dadaab MP Mohamed Dahiye said desperation to get Kenyan national IDs had forced people to part with huge sums of money.

“From corrupt government registration personnel to cartels working in cahoots with them..., millions of shilling were exchanging hands,” he said.

NATIONAL PROBLEM

Double registration, he said, is not specific to the northeastern region but a national problem that is threatening to get out of hand.

People parting with huge bribes, Dr Dahiye told the task force, are hoping to remove their names from the UNHCR refugee list.

He said cartels operating at registration centres have been fleecing residents of their money, claiming that they can help remove their names from the foreigners database.

While handing over to task force chairman Mathias Omondi a list he claimed was of genuine Kenyans registered as refugees, the lawmaker said his efforts to have their names struck off the UNHCR database had borne no fruit.

“These people had their families registered as refugee in bid to access free food and other services from UN agencies,” he said.

Many Kenyans, he said, became victims of double registration during the 1992 famine.

RENDERED STATELESS

“Victims of double registration have been rendered stateless and they are confined in their villages. They can’t open bank accounts, they can’t get jobs, those who completed secondary education and got admission to tertiary institutions are idling with their admission letters since they lack IDs,” the MP said.

Dr Dahiye asked the task force to recommend the formation of a committee comprising respected local elders and government officials to investigate cases of genuine Kenyans who are suffering after registering as refugees.

The task force was formed on November 3, 2014 to address cases of double-registered Kenyans.

Mr Omondi said the views of the locals and their leaders would be forwarded to the appointing authority (the Presidency) for action.

“We are telling the locals to cooperate with us and tell us their identity problem without fear because they will not be victimised,” he said.

The meeting was attended by the Garissa County security team, headed by Deputy County Commissioner Dominic Kyenza, members of the Garissa County Assembly and opinion and religious leaders.