Amnesty International Calls for Protection of Somali Refugees in Kenya, Not Abuse

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Amnesty International Calls for Protection of Somali Refugees in Kenya, Not Abuse

LONDON - Thousands of Somali refugees
and asylum-seekers fleeing to Kenya  face terrible conditions and
risks, their lives in jeopardy and their rights abused, Amnesty International
said in a report issued today.

“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, deputy director
of the Africa Program at Amnesty International. "No Somali should
be forcibly returned to southern and central Somalia.”

The report, “

From Life Without Peace
to Peace Without Life,” describes how thousands fleeing violence
in Somalia are unable to find refuge, protection and lasting solutions
in Kenya, due to the closure of the border between the two countries almost
four years ago amid security concerns.

Last month around 8,000
Somali refugees who had fled across the border into Kenya from the Somali
town of Belet Hawo following intense fighting there, were ordered to return
to Somalia by the Kenyan authorities. Moreover, Kenyan police then forced
about 3,000 of them further into Somalia, where they continue to be at
risk of grave human rights abuses.

“Many Somalis have no option but to cross
into Kenya," said Kagari. "Kenya’s closure of the screening
center near the border however means no Somali is registered immediately
and that nobody is screened. Inevitably, this does nothing to address Kenya’s
national security concerns.”

Following a surge in violence in December 2006, Kenya closed its 682 kilometer
border (423 miles) with Somalia, maintaining that fighters with alleged
links to al-Qaeda might otherwise enter Kenya and endanger national security.

However, because the border is porous, Somalis have continued to seek refuge
in Kenya. The Kenyan authorities have turned a blind eye to the continuous
flow of Somali asylum-seekers across the border, calling into question
what impact, if any, the closure has had on the security situation.

In a meeting with Amnesty International last March, 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.”

In its 18-page report, Amnesty International describes how Kenyan security
forces have forcibly returned asylum-seekers and refugees to Somalia and
demanded bribes and arbitrarily arrested and detained them. Somalis are
regularly harassed by Kenyan police at the border areas, in the Dadaab
refugee camps in northeastern Kenya and in urban areas, including Nairobi.

A Somali woman, age 55, told Amnesty International:

“I came to Dadaab seven days ago through Dobley. I was caught after Dobley
and spent six days in jail in Garissa. I came by car with 25 other Somalis.
We were all jailed... I had four children with me: one girl aged 11, and
three boys aged eight, nine and three years-old. The Kenyan police said:
“you came illegally through the wrong way.”
I had to pay 5,000 Kenyan shillings. My relatives had to send money.”

The three Daadab camps are themselves grossly overcrowded. Originally built
to accommodate 90,000 refugees, they now house more than 280,000. As a
result, housing, water, sanitation, health and education services are strained.

The Kenyan government has been slow in allocating
more land to host the growing refugee population.

Refugees in the Daadab camps told Amnesty International that the camps
themselves are increasingly insecure and that members and sympathizers
of al-Shabab, an armed Islamist group in Somalia, were present in the camps
or travelled through them and at times recruited refugees to fight in Somalia.
The Kenyan security forces are also reported to have been involved in recruiting
Somali refugees for military training in late 2009.

“The situation in the Daadab camps has reached crisis point,” said 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.”

“Kenya disproportionately shoulders the responsibility for massive refugee
flows from Somalia and needs more support from the international community,
including European Union countries to provide durable solutions for these
people," said Kagari.

Amnesty International is calling on the
Kenyan government to ensure that Somalis are given refuge and adequate
protection on Kenyan soil.

It also asks the international community and Kenya’s donor partners to
share responsibility for Somalia’s refugee crisis and to increase resettlement
programs and support local integration projects to improve the lives of
refugees in Kenya.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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