27 March 2014

Kenya Orders Refugees Back Into Camps After Church Attack

Kenya has restricted all refugees on its soil to two designated camps in the wake of a weekend attack on a church near Mombasa that claimed six lives.

Kenyans were asked to report any refugees or illegal immigrants outside the overcrowded camps Dadaab in the east and Kakuma in the northwest to the police.

"Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law," Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement.

The minister's directive came after Sunday's attack in the Likoni district near Mombasa. There had been heightened warnings of a threat of Islamist violence in Kenya.

The latest attack in Kenya came just days after police arrested two men with a vehicle stashed full of large quantities of powerful explosives prepared in pipe bombs. Experts said the improvised explosives would have been strong enough to bring down a major building and cause massive civilian casualties.

Ole Lenku said 500 extra police would be deployed in the capital Nairobi as well as Mombasa, Kenya's second city. Refugee registration centers in main cities will be closed, the statement said.

Dadaab, camp where some of the refugees are destined, is the world's largest refugee camp

UNHCR talking to government

UN agency for refugees, UNHCR, has expressed optimism that the ongoing consultations with the Kenyan government and other stakeholders on the issue of refugees will be conducted in a manner that respects the refugees' rights.

Emmanuel Nyabera, the spokesperson for UNHCR in Kenya, told DW that they are negotiating with the government to ensure that everything is done in the right way.

"We want to make sure that at the end of the day we will take care of the interests of the refugees and the people of Kenya," said Nyabera, "we also want to thank the people of Kenya for the support they have given us all this time."

"There's no crisis here, the Kenyan government has supported the refugees for more than thirty years and we appreciate that."

Pressed on whether the UN had any contingency plans in case the government hurriedly put into action the order, even though the said negotiations are on going, Nyabera refrained from speculating on the impact it would have on the refugees.

"In case of any eventualities we will sit with the government and assess the situation in the camps and look at the capacity for us to absorb the number of people coming in and ensure that protection of refugees is consistent with the international law," Nyabera concluded.

Dire conditions in the camps

Dadaab, where people often live in appalling conditions, is home to more than 400,000 mainly Somali refugees while Kakuma, a vast desert settlement, is home to more than 125,000 refugees from across the region, including Somalia.

Kenyan troops are part of the African Union troops trying to stabilize Somalia

The country had previously ordered all asylum seekers and refugees to report to the Dadaab and Kakuma camps in December 2012, after a spate of attacks in the northeast and in Nairobi that included several blasts in the capital's largely ethnic-Somali Eastleigh neighborhood.

Somalia is still engulfed in conflict but some areas are more stable. A 17,000-strong African Union force including Kenyan troops has managed to wrest a series of towns from the al-Shabab in recent years.

Kenya has been hit by a series of attacks since sending troops into southern Somalia in October 2011 to battle the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab insurgents.


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