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Kenya Urged To Reconsider Relocating Somalis

Newly arrived Somali refugees ride a donkey along the street at the Ifo Extension refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border. (file)

The United States is concerned by the announcement to move thousands of refugees from Nairobi.

Kenyan authorities, concerned that the large number of Somalis who have fled fighting and drought in their country to seek refuge in Kenya may be threatening internal security, have begun ordering them out of urban areas and into refugee camps.

Kenya Urged To Reconsider Relocating Somalis
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The move follows a spate of attacks inside Kenya believed to have been carried out in retaliation for the role played by Kenyan troops in the international effort to restore peace and stability in Somalia.

The United States is concerned by the announcement to move thousands of refugees from Nairobi and other cities to camps in Dadaab and Kakuma, which are already overcrowded and challenged by insufficient security and aging facilities. This difficult and divisive step could heighten ethnic tensions and undermine security and public safety.

Many ethnic Somalis have long lived in Kenya, and hundreds of thousands more crossed the border since Somalia descended into chaos two decades ago.

Kenyan authorities announced after the December attacks, which targeted bus stations, churches and mosques, that they would move urban refugees into camps. News media and NGOs are reporting an increase in criminal attacks and some police harassment of refugees and ethnic Somalis since the government’s announcement.

On January 23, the High Court of Kenya ruled on an emergency petition filed by the Urban Refugee Protections Network, issuing a temporary injunction that halts government plans to begin forcibly moving tens of thousands of urban refugees to the camps.

The United States notes that Kenya has a long history of providing refuge for those fleeing conflict and persecution and hosts the largest number of displaced persons in Africa. We recognize the nation’s right to set policies on refugees and security.

That said, we urge the Kenyan government to reconsider its relocation announcement, taking into account the need to avoid violence between communities in the cities, maintain calm ahead of this year’s elections, protect vulnerable members of society, and address the already serious problems that exist in the camps. We also request that authorities investigate thoroughly all reports of attacks and harassment, and hold accountable those found to have abused their power.