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Building on the foundation: Formative Evaluation of the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Transition Process in Kenya

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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  1. This formative evaluation aims to provide a country-specific analysis and recommendations on the transition to the full exercise of national responsibility by the Kenyan authorities for Refugee Status Determination (RSD), in line with Kenyan law. The present report examines the roles of UNHCR and Kenyan national authorities during and post-transition, the use of joint RSD procedures during transition, capacity building of national authorities, handling of backlogs and previously adopted decisions, the contribution of other actors and the need for accessible durable solutions.

  2. Following the assumption of responsibility for recognising refugees by the Kenyan Commissioner for Refugee Affairs on 1 July 2014, RSD in Kenya has been conducted as a joint DRA-UNHCR process, pursuant to a Work Plan first agreed in late 2013 and subsequently revised in 2014 for the transition period up to 1 January 2016. Various steps in the plan have been substantially delayed, due in part to factors beyond the control of UNHCR and DRA, including the creation of an effective appeal instance, as the Refugee Appeal Board, being the competent entity under Kenyan law to hear appeals against negative decisions on asylum claims, has not been established in January 2014 nor to date.

  3. The progressive build-up of DRA’s capacity, through recruitment, training and retention of competent staff, is fundamental to the success of the transition. However, difficulties in the recruitment and retention of competent staff in DRA, as well as the lack of senior DRA management capacity with legal expertise to oversee RSD activities, have hampered capacity-building efforts to date, and in turn have constrained the development of DRA’s readiness to assume greater responsibility in the process. The challenges around recruiting and retaining staff, which are due largely to limited security of tenure, career prospects and conditions for contract staff, are great; and overcoming them will be crucial for the success of the transition to national RSD in the longer term.

  4. UNHCR has nevertheless played an effective role in training and capacity-building activities for DRA to date, an activity which will require on-going investment of additional resources for the remainder of the transition process and subsequently, including as new DRA personnel are hired. At the same time, UNHCR should continue to empower DRA to assume a greater role in training and managerial roles, to ensure sustainability of the institution’s capacity in the long term. It is calculated that UNHCR has invested US$ 4,800,884 in capacity-building of DRA from 2012 to end 2014.