5 October 2012

Kenya: African Judges Say War On Terrorism Affect Refugee Rights

THE anti-terrorism war in developing countries is a hindrance to refugee protection, the ongoing African judges and magistrates conference on refugee protection in Mombasa was told yesterday.

The judges said balancing national security and refugee protection as one of the greatest challenges facing the developing countries.

They said proper policies should be put in place to balance the two.

The judges, under the umbrella of International Association of Refugee Law Judges, said national security in many developing countries has hampered the protection of refugees' rights.

UNHCR regional deputy president Abel Mbilinya called on the judiciary in the countries to step in to ensure genuine refuges are not antagonised in the name of fighting terrorism.

"Many countries are using the issue as an overriding principle to stifle efforts of the genuine asylum seeker.I call upon you judges and magistrates present not to be whipped by the issues of national security but strike a balancing act when handling this issue," said Mbilinya.

IARLJ Africa president Ahmed Arbee, a South African, said the only solution to the problem is the harmonisation of the policy and principals of refugee protection in the world in line with the 1951 Geneva Convention.

"Developing countries have become fundamental barriers towards refugee protection. The judiciary should step in and ensure their rights are guaranteed," said Arbee.

Kenyan appellate judge Erastus Githinji, representing chief justice Willy Mutunga, said the courts have failed to uphold the rule of law when handling refugees' related matters.

The conference comes as Kenya is grappling with one of the largest refugee camps in the world, Daadab, whose many occupants are from the troubled Somalia.

The government has on many occasions decried of the insecurity and acts of terror from people occupying the camps in North Eastern region.

The two-day conference themed 'Towards Harmonizing Policy and Practice in relation to Refugee Status Determination in Africa' has attracted over 100 Judges and Magistrates the world.

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