Garissa MPs demand halt of refugee integration project, accuse PS Bitok of nepotism, mismanagement » Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 29 – Lawmarkers from Garissa County have demanded the halt of the ongoing plans to integrate refugees under the Shirika Plan citing discrimination and mismanagement.

MPs hailing from the region expressed that the Shirika plan being spearheaded by the Department of Refugee Affairs and the UNHCR is being undertaken without any form of engagement with local leaders and communities terming it a violation of the constitution.

Dadaab MP Farah Maalim accused Immigrations Principal Secretary Julius Bitok who heads the Refugees Affairs Secretariat of nepotism expressing five out of the six recently recruited Assistant Commissioners of Refugee Affairs come from his community.

“It is important to mention that five (5) out of six (6) recently recruited Assistant Commissioners of Refugee Affairs hail from Prof. Bitok’s community. That all the personnel in Department save for two who hail from Refugee hosting areas. Prof. Bitok therefore runs the RAS as a close-knit cartel of stooges,” he said.

Maalim who was accompanied by Fafi MP Salah Yakub is now demanding an immediate cancellation of all recent recruitments pending an independent Human resource audit of the Department.

He lamented that despite Garissa County hosting refugees for over three decades the region has been sidelined when it comes to the integration plan in terms of employment.

“We are telling the President to set up a team to investigate these things and am sure the President hasn’t given a green light to condone this kind of discrimination on our people,” the Dadaab MP noted.

Yakub complained that the community has been left in the dark in the ongoing integration process saying the UNHCR has solely hijacked the process without involving the locals.

“Shirika Plan is a hoax without the consultation of the community. The community and refugees don’t know what’s going on. We are asking the government to step its foot down so that the host community get the opportunity it deserves,” he said.

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Garissa Woman Representative Udgoon Siyad mentioned that the Shirika Plan should promote economic growth in the Northern Region through alternative sustainable livelihoods and increased financial access.

“We will shoot all things down until all the demands are met  and we have public participation are met.We have been with them for 30 years and therefore the recruitment should prioritize people from the North,”said Siyad.

The government’s plan to transition the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps into integrated settlements received a major boost with the allocation of over Sh28 billion to the project.

The five-year transition plan, dubbed the Shirika Plan, aims to transform the refugee camps into integrated settlements for both refugees and host communities, with a view to making refugees self-reliant and contributing to the economy.

The Shirika Plan which was prepared using a multi-stakeholder consultative approach is a multi-year plan by the national government to promote the socio-economic inclusion of refugees by transforming camps into integrated settlements.

The country remains the fifth largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the thirteenth largest asylum country in the world, with over 577,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers as of the end of February 2023.

The Dadaab MP regretted that the UNHCR has taken for granted the magnanimity of the refugee hosting communities for the longest time for hosting the refugees saying they have continually degraded the environment in search of fuelwood.

“We find it bizarre that a UN Agency that ought to espouse the highest standards of international environmental principles operates with wanton disregard to the refugee hosting areas. The irresponsibility of the UN Refugee Agency has occasioned refugees to rely on firewood,” said Maalim.

Maalim stated that Humanitarian activities by the United Nations World Food Programme had destroyed the road networks due the usage of huge trucks to transport goods to Dadaab.

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“Despite decade-long calls for tarmacking the Dadaab- Garissa Road in order to sustainably address the perennial road network problem, WFP has not offered to undertake the most minor road works, instead they have worked towards exacerbating an already bad situation,” he noted

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