21 June 2012

Kenya: Borders Not Closed to Somali Refugees

The government has denied claims that it has closed its borders to refugees. Speaking during this year's commemoration of the World Refugee Day in Nairobi, acting commissioner for refugee affairs Badu Katelo yesterday said the country had closed its borders on diplomatic relations but not on refugees.

This comes a day after Refugee Consortium of Kenya released a report calling on the government to reopen the Kenya-Somalia border and resume screening of asylum seekers. "There is no entry point in Kenya where we don't bar refugees from getting in the country. Our borders with Somali are closed on diplomatic ties but the humanitarian gestures are still on because apart from being compliance to the international law, it is our duty under the Refugee Act to give them a safe haven," Katelo said.

He said the government had put measures in place including training the police officers on human rights and taking disciplinary measures against those who abuse asylum seekers in its quest to protect refugees. "Refugees should further help keep the country safe by reporting criminal elements amongst them so as they can enjoy their freedoms," he said.

Winnnie Makotsi who represented the minister for immigration at the function called on those seeking asylum in Kenya to follow due process by registering as refugees to get recognition and avoid a brush with the law. On his part Elike Segbor UNCHR country representative called on the international community and other stakeholders involved in the peace process in Somalia to press for a lasting peace solution so to facilitate voluntary repatriation and integration of refuges willing settle back in Somalia. As per April this year Kenya had documented 616,695 refugees, with Dadaab camp currently hosting a total of 465695, Kakuma camp with a population of 96535 and about 54, 325 refugees registered in Nairobi and other urban areas.

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