Nairobi — Amnesty International has urged Kenyan authorities not to deport former Tanzanian Opposition Member of Parliament Godbless Lema who fled his country for fear of political persecution.
Kenya's Amnesty Executive Director Houghton Irungu said the alleged planned move by the Kenyan authorities would violate the principle of non-refoulment, an international principle also subscribed by Kenya, that prohibits a country from turning away people at the border or returning them to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or danger.
Lema, who has been critical of President John Magufuli's administration, was on Sunday arrested by police in Kajiado after crossing the border alongside his wife and three children.
According to his lawyer George Luchiri Wajackoyah, the immediate former Member of Parliament for Arusha Urban Constituency is still locked up at the Kajiado Police Station awaiting deportation orders.
"Kenya must not violate the internationally recognized principle of non-refoulment. The international principle is upheld by our own national laws," Irungu said.
Lema and his family crossed from Tanzania through the Namanga border and were arrested immediately after the Tanzanian authorities notified their Kenyan counterparts.
The former MP had reportedly declined to hand over his passport to Tanzanian immigration officials.
Irungu noted that deporting Lema back to Tanzania where he risks facing serious human rights violations, would amount to "a human rights violation" and challenged the Kenyan government to protect and provide him with sanctuary.
"We call on the Kenyan government to process Godbless Lema and his family's quest for asylum per its obligations to the Refugee Convention, O.A.U Convention on Refugees and the Refugee Act 2006," he said.
Irungu said since Kenya is a state party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 O.A.U Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, "anyone seeking asylum must be allowed into Kenya, whether the entry is by legal or illegal means,".
He added that Lema has the right to have his application heard and considered for refugee status.
"He also has the right to remain in Kenya until a final decision has been made on his case and the procedural right to appeal as provided in law," he said.
There has been a crackdown on opposition leaders following President Magufuli's re-election in a landslide victory questioned by his critics led by his main challenger Tundu Lissu who lost.
Lema was among three opposition leaders who were released last week when they were arrested for mobilising demonstrations to demand fresh elections.