Kenyan hospitality truly knows no limits. We have always been a warm and friendly people, whether to friends and relatives, or mzungus who have just arrived at the airport to be greeted by “Karibu Kenya” signs. Hosting people is not only a good deed, as we are taught from the biblical story of Abraham’s tent, but it is also extremely satisfying and fulfilling.
Human beings are always stronger when they are together. We are always able to achieve more as a group. After all, everyone needs a little support and care sometimes.
And this welcoming attitude has not been limited to just friends or tourists with money to spend. The government has consistently followed an open door policy for refugees, coming mainly from other less stable East African countries.
WORLD REFUGEE DAY
This June, the world marked World Refugee Day in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ever since World War II caused so much displacement around the world, we have seen the global number of refugees frequently increase through the years.
As of 2020, the global refugee population is estimated to be almost 26 million people, almost 13 million of which are children under the age of 18. During this particularly difficult period, it is important that we in Kenya do not forget about refugees less fortunate than us, both in our region and around the world.
Furthermore, developing countries tend to have higher numbers of refugees than wealthier countries due to close proximity to volatile regions.
According to the World Bank, the majority of refugees in East Africa and the Horn of Africa region have been displaced for five years or more.
The large influx of refugees in Kenya is sometimes seen as an economic burden by those holding xenophobic views, but it actually poses many economic opportunities.
If managed well, new arrivals can bring a renewed economic energy.
Recognising this, Kenyatta has been able to combine both good ethics with economic prescience by enabling Kenya’s open door policy.
Recently Kenya has partnered up with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Bank in order to realise the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. This aligns with the goals set forth by the Global Compact Refugees, which offers a new approach to displacement.
The new approach will focus on long term solutions rather than short term palliatives, including seeking to integrate refugees into the local labour force, rather than segregating and subsequently disadvantaging them.
Refugees arrive to host countries with all sorts of skills that are sometimes lacking in the local economy, and they have a lot to give. Even Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest scientist in modern times, was once a refugee fleeing persecution.
The government will initiative comprehensive plans to promote economic growth and employment.
This includes improving infrastructure development in refugee communities as well as a labour-based approach to job creation. In other words, rather than giving grants to support refugees as they come in, the new policy will work to incorporate refugees into the workforce and ensure that they can get back on their feet, so they can contribute to the local community as soon as possible.
Everyone needs a place to call home, whether that be temporary or permanent. By enabling refugees to become more integrated in the local economy, Kenya’s economy will also prosper more.
The new policy will ensure that there are proper mechanisms for skills recognition and pairing people with skills to the appropriate employers and other opportunities, both in the private and public sector. Enhancing their participation in the labour market is an all-around win-win situation.
But not only that, it offers refugees who have suffered more than we can imagine, who have lost their homes and sometimes their families, a sense of dignity. It provides them with purpose and fulfillment, and it is the right thing to do.
As a people guided by the morals of the Bible, it is key that we never forget how far we have come as a nation ourselves. What we have to share, we should certainly be sharing with generosity, grace and selflessness. That is the Kenyan way.
Ms Benyawa is a journalist. [email protected]