Minority Asian group celebrates Kenyan citizenship after decades of statelessness

Stateless members of the Asian community in Kenya are celebrating their new status as Kenyan citizens after decades of being without nationality.

The group held a special ceremony at the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust (KFEET) grounds to celebrate their new status. During the ceremony, certificates of citizenship were issued to stateless members of the Asian Community currently residing in the country.

The historic event saw a cake encrypted with the words ‘I AM KENYAN’ cut by members of the community amid cheer.

‘Rather than looking back at the past, I can only hope to look towards the future, to what it holds for all of us here,” said Khalil Sidi, a jubilant recipient of a document declaring citizenship of Kenya

The fete is a culmination of many years of struggle to have the group recognized as citizens of the East African Country. Over the years, multiple unsuccessful attempts have been made by community-based organizations to solve the issue of statelessness.

The successful campaign was spearheaded by Sahib Singh Khosla who reached out to various local and international organizations as well as government agencies to back the recognition bid.

‘Apart from researching the effects of statelessness on British Overseas Citizen Asian community in Kenya and compiling a verifiable database of people concerned, I provided legal aid services including applications for citizenship documents and advocated for enhancements in Nationality laws and regulations to avoid the risk of future statelessness,’ said Sahib

The Asian Citizen celebration ceremony finale with an ‘I AM KENYAN’ cake cutting at KFEET. Photo / Simran Hindocha

“We think too much and feel too little”. Was I Anxious? Excited?…Tired? Or was it a blend of everything? The day had arrived – a new dawn,” a buoyant Sahib said as he reflected on the words of British filmmaker and actor Charlie Chaplin.

But he was not alone in this journey. He acknowledged the efforts of Malkit Singh whom he describes as “a dynamic catalyst in this process since his involvement in late 2020,”

“Due to his efforts, stateless applicants from various ethnic backgrounds and groups from as low as one year of being stateless to as high as 50 years of being stateless now have a legal status in their home country,” Sahib remarked in appreciation of Malkit’s contribution.

The group further recognized the support accorded to the community by the Directorate of Immigration led by the Director-General Alexander Muteshi and the Director of Foreign Nationals Management Eunice Lamba Chacha. They said the two were key players in the process of them attaining citizenship.

During the clamor, Muteshi had indicated that lacking identity is a major human rights issue, “because once you are stateless, it’s very difficult for you to be able to engage in any economic activity and it’s difficult for your family to access basic services.”

The group, comprising 100 members, expressed relief given the end of a constant dilemma of being illegal in a country they were born and raised in.

Some of the challenges faced by stateless members include not being able to work legally due to lack of PIN Certificate and National ID card, not being able to travel abroad due to lack of a passport. Other challenges include barriers in investments, ownership of bank accounts as well as issues surrounding obtaining a mobile phone line or marriage due to insufficient documentation for processes of paperwork.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Kenya representative Samwel Okute congratulated the recipients and all parties involved. He noted their cordial working relationship with the government through the CS Ministry of Interior Fred Matiang’i in the success of the process.

  

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