Research Report: Myths and Truths

Download Report. Kenya has been hosting refugees and asylum seekers since the early 1960s. There are currently over half a million refugees in the country. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a majority of these refugees and asylum seekers reside in the camps while 10.5% reside in urban areas, and in particular, Nairobi. Over the years of refugee hosting, Kenyans – who are essentially the host community – have formulated and crystalized some perceptions of refugees particularly those that reside in urban areas.

These perceptions have morphed into myths that surround urban refugees in Kenya. The myths range from viewing refugees as fully supported by the UNHCR and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to viewing refugees as exceedingly wealthy but at the same time not contributing to the economy. These perceptions, among others, have contributed to Kenyans viewing refugees and asylum seekers with suspicion that have, in turn, led to growing feelings of xenophobia towards refugees in the country.

This study was commissioned to investigate the level of refugee contribution to the economy at the household level as well as the independence of that contribution from UNHCR and NGO assistance. The study had three main objectives which included an investigation into types of livelihood activities that urban refugees are engaged in; the amount of money that urban refugees earn and their expenditure pattern in Nairobi and the extent to which Kenyan law and policy framework provide a conducive environment for refugees to access the right to work.

It focused on Nairobi as the main urban centre that refugees reside in. RCK interviewed a total of 630 refugee households which were represented by the head of household, employing quota sampling methods. Members of different nationalities were also represented in the sample size to ensure representativeness of the results of the research. Data was collected between April and May 2015.