Kenya’s Somali refugee plan unlawful, says Amnesty

A decision by Kenya to move all asylum-seekers and refugees out of urban areas and into overcrowded camps is unlawful, Amnesty International says.

The rights group said the government was wrong to blame refugees “en masse” for attacks supposedly carried out by supporters of Somali Islamists.

A spate of attacks has hit areas with a large ethnic Somali population in north-east Kenya and Nairobi.

More than 500,000 Somalis have sought refuge from war and poverty in Kenya.

On Tuesday, Kenya ordered all Somali refugees and asylum-seekers to report to the Dadaab refugee camps near the border with Somalia.

The north-eastern complex is the world’s biggest refugee facility and already has some 500,000 people – four times the number it was built for.

People from other countries have been told to go to Kakuma camp in the north-west which houses some 100,000 people from Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

The head of Kenya’s refugee agency said aid would no longer be delivered to anyone remaining in urban areas.

It is believed that more than 30,000 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone.

Amnesty described the decision as “a discriminatory and unlawful restriction on freedom of movement”.

Kathryn Achilles, Amnesty’s East Africa expert, said: “The government cannot simply scapegoat refugees and asylum-seekers en masse for security incidents.

“This restriction on freedom of movement is likely to lead to other serious human rights abuses in already overcrowded, insecure refugee camps.”

Amnesty called on the Kenyan government to overturn the decision.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has also urged Kenya to uphold the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

“We caution against stigmatisation of refugees and asylum-seekers,” the agency said in a statement.

On Thursday, Badu Katelo, Kenya’s acting commissioner for refugee affairs, said refugees, particularly those living in urban centres, were “contributing to insecurity in the country”.

He also called on aid agencies, including the UNHCR, to stop giving aid to asylum-seekers and refugees in Kenya’s towns and cities and only provide help in camps.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, which operates health programmes in Dadaab, told the BBC it was already struggling to cope with the numbers in the camp.

The Somali Islamist group al-Shabab – which is linked to al-Qaeda – has not commented on claims that it is behind the attacks.

However, it had threatened to take revenge after Kenya sent troops into Somalia last year to help the UN-backed government seize territory from militants.

The latest attack in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi, known as “Little Mogadishu”, came on Sunday, when three grenades were thrown at a shop, injuring several people.

Two similar incidents have recently killed at least 15 people, leading to increased tension in Nairobi between ethnic Somalis and other Kenyans.

There have also been mass arrests of ethnic Somalis.



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