28 March 2014

Kenya: UN Agency Urges Kenya to Reconsider Measure Ordering All Refugees Back to Camps

The United Nations refugee agency today denounced as "scapegoating" the Kenyan Government's decision earlier this week to order some 50,000 refugees, believed to be mostly Somalis, to report to two camps after a recent upsurge in violence in the region.

"All communities are affected by insecurity, and scapegoating refugees is not an answer. Blanket implementation of encampment measures is arbitrary and unreasonable, and carries a threat to human dignity," Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva today.

On Tuesday, the Kenyan Government announced its ruling that the registered refugees must move from cities to either sprawling Dadaab camp, home to over 400,000 mainly Somali refugees, or to Kakuma, a vast settlement in Kenya's western desert region that is home to more than 125,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia, among other countries.

According media reports, Kenyan authorities issued the order restricting the refugees to the two camps, following a deadly attack last weekend by unknown gunmen near the port city of Mombasa.

Urging the Kenyan Government to reconsider the measures, Mr. Edwards said that while UNHCR understood the need to address security concerns and strengthen law enforcement, blanket measures which targeted people based on nationality or belonging to a group were discriminatory and usually ineffective, and were creating suffering for innocent people.

"Refugees are as much at risk from insecurity as the wider population," he said, calling for a solution that is sensitive to protection needs.

"We are in close contact with the Government to see how its security concerns can be addressed in accordance with international legal norms and practices," he said, adding that Kenya has a long history of hosting many thousands of refugees, and the current refugee population in the country amounted to over 550,000 people, of whom about 430,000 are from Somalia.

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