NAIROBI – Human rights activists have called on the Kenyan government to reverse an order for all urban-based refugees to be relocated into two camps in the north of the country.
“The Cabinet Secretary’s directive will be against the rule of law,” Khalif Hemedi, director of Huru Kenya, Nairobi-based rights lobby group, told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
On Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary for Interior Joseph Ole Lenku ordered all refugees living in cities and towns across the country to be restricted to the two camps – Dadaab and Kakuma.
“Dadaab and Kakuma are already overcrowded. The living conditions are appalling. Insecurity in the camps prevails,” Hemedi said.
“To force over 50000 more refugees to join more than half a million refugees living in a camp meant for less than 200000 refugees is indeed illogical,” he said on behalf of six human rights groups from Kenya and Somalia.
The government order was issued two days after six people were killed in an attack on a church in the coastal city of Mombasa.
Hemedi argued that the relocation order flouted a 2013 court ruling that halted a government plan to relocate refugees.
“A court ruling clearly banned the relocation of refugees,” Hemedi said.
“The government of Kenya is now using attacks by unknown terrorist to deny the refugee community their fundamental rights.”
Following the order, Kenyan police raided districts with a significant population of Somalis, arresting more than 1000 refugees.
Eastleigh, popularly known as Little Mogadishu, was the most hard-hit by the night swoops targeting Somali and Ethiopian refugees.
Kenya has also closed all refugee registration centers in Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret.
“On the second day of the raid, we have recorded cases of torture, abuse and arbitrary detaining of refugees in Nairobi, Mombasa and North Eastern Kenya,” Hemedi said.
Rights activists also said that some ethnic Somali Kenyans, who have failed to obtain ID documents, were arrested during the raids.
Kenya is believed to shelter approximately 800000 refugees from neighboring Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.N. refugee agency estimates the population of urban refugees to be at 50,000, mostly concentrated in Nairobi and Mombasa.
In 2012, the Kenyan government issued a similar order to relocate refugees to camps following a spate of grenade attacks in Nairobi.
The order, however, was quashed by the High Court, which said that the relocation would violate refugees’ dignity and freedom of movement and would risk indirectly forcing them back to Somalia.
The court further said that the Kenyan government had not proved that the move would help protect national security.
Kenya has been hit by a spate of attacks since sending troops to troubled Somalia in 2011 to fight the militant group Al-Shabaab.
In December, 67 people were killed by armed commandos at an upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi, an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab.
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