PART I: REFUGEES LIVING IN NAIROBI
Although the Kenyan government largely denies the presence of tens of thousands of refugees in Nairobi-stating that the only refugees in Kenya are those housed in the refugee camps-UNHCR reports that it assessed the status of 20,671 refugees in Nairobi at the end of 2001.42 This figure errs on the conservative side, and UNHCR acknowledges that the actual number could be as high as 60,000.43
Largely unacknowledged by the government, and under-assisted by UNHCR,44 urban refugees in Nairobi live in squalid housing conditions, often without access to food, clean water, medical care, jobs, or education. Many flee persecution only to wind up as targets of the same agents that harmed them or their families in their countries of origin. Women and children are subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of their fellow refugees. If asylum seekers can afford the time or money it takes to travel to UNHCR's offices to have their status as refugees assessed, they are caught up in a time-consuming and uncertain process that affords them pieces of paper that are then ignored and even destroyed by the Kenyan police. Almost all refugees, just like ordinary Kenyans, must pay bribes to escape spending time in Nairobi's crowded and filthy jails. Still others may find themselves summarily returned to the countries from which they fled.
42 See UNHCR "Kenya Annual Statistical Report," Table III, February 2002.
43 Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR official, Nairobi, Kenya, April 3, 2002.
44 See notes 461-462, below, discussing UNHCR's funding shortfalls in Kenya and Uganda.