A Maralal Court has granted refugee status to ten Eritrean nationals who were accused of being in the country illegally.
Maralal Senior Resident Magistrate James Wanyanga acquitted the foreigners of being in the country illegally after confirmation by the Department of Refugee Services (DRS) that the suspects were just asylum seekers.
The Department of Refugee Services tabled a report in court on Monday and confirmed the ten foreign nationals were seeking asylum in Kenya before they were arrested in Maralal.
The report by the DRS also indicated that they established a bonafide asylum claim under Section 3 of the Refugee Act 2021, and the Eritreans were required to process the claim.
“After conducting an assessment on the accused persons, DRS confirms they are Eritrean nationals,”
“They have established a bonafide asylum claim under Section 3 of the Refugee Act 2021, and should be allowed to process the claim.” The report read in part.
Mr Wanyanga ruled that all charges against the foreigners be withdrawn under Section 87a of the criminal procedural court.
Wanyanga also ordered that the foreigners be escorted by the DRS through the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to joint refugees centre in Nairobi to facilitate their asylum registration.
“The DRS report confirms that the accused persons are Eritreans seeking asylum in the country. Let the accused be escorted by the DRS through the DCI Maralal to joint refugees centre in Nairobi to facilitate their asylum registration,” Wanyanga ordered.
A report from the immigration office in Isiolo revealed that the accused were trying to seek asylum before being arrested.
The immigration office conducted an interview with the suspects on June 27 and the report that was tabled before the Maralal Court by Isiolo’s immigration officer Stephen Monyenye indicated the Eritreans tried to seek asylum in Ethiopia, but were informed that the refugee camps were closed, and were not taking refugees anymore.
The nine men and one woman between 17 and 53 years appeared before a Maralal Court last week where they faced charges of being unlawfully in Kenya contrary to section 53(1)(j) as read with section 53(2) of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act No. 12 of 2011.
The majority of the suspects could not speak English or Swahili when they were arraigned, forcing the court to defer the case to have two interpreters (Tigranian and Amharic) available.
Reporting by KNA