Nairobi — Kenyan police say they have screened more than 1,000 people and are deporting 225 others in ongoing security sweeps targeting illegal immigrants. Rghts groups and ethnic Somalis in Kenya have complained of police harassment, bribe-taking and ethnic targeting during the crackdown.
In a statement Wednesday, Kenyan police said the security sweep known as "Operation Usalama Watch," which began earlier this month, "has progressed well and has been intensified."
Police officers have been going door-to-door across the country arresting and screening suspected illegal immigrants.
Police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi delivered an update on the operation at a news conference in Nairobi. "Operation Usalama Watch has continued to arrest criminals, suspected terrorists and illegal aliens. One-thousand one-hundred thirty-six suspects from 14 different nationalities have undergone security screenings as of April 15," he said.
In addition, police say 225 people are in the process of being deported. This includes 82 previously sent to Mogadishu, while refugees are being sent back to camps in northern Kenya.
The country has been on high alert following recent attacks and threats by Somali militants.
Security operations have focused on ethnic-Somali neighborhoods in the capital, Nairobi. Kenyan-Somali political activist Awil Aden Ahmed saids Somali residents feel they have been vilified. "All Somalis see that this has been targeting their population and targeting their businesses, so they see this as a total war against Somalis," he said.
Mwinyi disputes the allegations that any particular group is being singled out. "At the end of the day, this operation is well-intended, it is not punitive and it is in no way trying to target people," he stated.
Somalis in Nairobi have accused police of seeking bribes during security sweeps - threatening to arrest legal residents if they do not pay up.
Mwinyi said he has heard accounts of police misconduct, but has yet to see an official report.