Kenya continues to expel Somali refugees back to their homeland, where their lives are at risk, Amnesty International said. The rights group, in a report released on Wednesday, calls on Kenya to give the Somalis “refuge and adequate protection.”
London-based Amnesty points out that around 8,000 Somali refugees who fled into Kenya last month, following fierce fighting in the Somali town of Belet Hawo, were ordered to return to their home country by the Kenyan authorities.
“Continued fighting and horrendous abuses in Somalia pose a very real threat to the lives of tens of thousands of children, women and men, “said Michelle Kagari, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International. ”No Somali should be forcibly returned to southern and central Somalia.”
Last month, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees already made an urgent appeal to Nairobi not to turn back Somalis who are fleeing from clashes between pro-government militias and Islamist Shehab fighters.
"UNHCR, in its advice to governments, has made clear that people fleeing central and southern Somalia are at substantial risk and that their international protection needs must be respected," the statement said.
Kenya closed its 682 kilometre border with Somalia after a wave of violence in December 2006, maintaining that fighters with alleged links to al-Qaeda may enter the country and endanger national security.
However, in a meeting with Amnesty International in March 2010, Kenya’s Minister of State for Immigration admitted “the closure of the border does not help. We would be better to screen them [Somali asylum seekers] so that we can know who they are.”
HARRASSED BY KENYAN POLICE
Since the border closure, Kenyan security forces have forcibly returned refugees and asylum seekers to Somalia, Amnesty said. The group further alleged that Kenyan authorities “demanded bribes and arbitrarily arrested and detained them (the Somalis).”
“Somalis are regularly harassed by Kenyan police at the border areas, in the Dadaab refugee camps in north-eastern Kenya and in urban areas, including Nairobi,” Amnesty said.
The report further points out that the camps built for the Somali refugees in Kenya are “grossly overcrowded,” as 280,000 people are currently housed in facilities originally built for 90,000.
“The situation in the Daadab camps has reached crisis point,” said Amnesty’s Kagari. “Somali refugees find themselves stuck between a war zone and what many describe as an open prison, since Kenya does not allow them to leave the camps without special permission. Refugees who have made their way to Kenya’s cities live precariously and remain vulnerable to police abuse.”
She further acknowledged that “Kenya disproportionately shoulders the responsibility for massive refugee flows from Somalia,” calling for support from the international community “to provide durable solutions for these people.”