23 January 2013

Kenya: Govt Directive to Move Refugees Cause of Xenophobia

Photo: WFP/Justin Smith
High Court stops the government from relocating refugees to the camps.

Attacks on refugees and Kenyan Somalis have increased since the government announced that all refugees and asylums-seekers in Nairobi should move to Dadaab and Kakuma camps. Executive Director Refugee Consortium Lucy Kiama says it has aggravated a xenophobic attitude towards genuine refugees.

INTERNATIONAL pressure continues to mount on Kenya's bid to relocate over 50,000 refugees out of its major cities for security reasons.

The statement from the Refugee Consortium comes a day the Human Rights Watch released a press release opposing the move.

Senior refugee researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch Gerry Simpson said in the statement that the plan would violate refugees' free movement rights and the unlawful forced eviction of tens of thousands of refugees may be used in the process.

Simpson said relocation would affect refugees' ability to make a living and unlawfully reduce their access to adequate food, clothing, housing, health care and education.

"Kenya is using recent grenade attacks to stigmatise all refugees as potential terrorists and to force tens of thousands of them into appalling living conditions in already severely overcrowded camps," he said.

Kenya which hosts up to 623,000 refugees from Somalia, 14,300 from Ethiopia, 33,000 from Sudan, 5,050 from DRC and 800 returnees has asked UNHCR to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas.

In an earlier statement, the government said the transfer of urban refugees to camps is in relation to a series of attacks in which unidentified people hurled hand-grenades into crowds in various locations, killing and injuring a number of people, including police officers and soldiers.

Local leaders among them MPs of Somali Origin led by deputy speaker and former Lagdera MP Farah Maaalim have opposed the move.

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