Government orders refugees back to camps

By Cyrus Ombati

Close to 100,000 refugees living in urban areas in the country have been ordered to return to camps.

Acting commission for refugees’ affairs Badu Katelo has also said no aid will be given to refugees outside their camps in Dadaab and Kakuma.

“UNHCR and other partners serving refugees are asked to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in the urban areas and transfer the same services to the refugee camps,” the order said.

“All asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia should report to Dadaab refugee camps, while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp,” he said in a statement.

The order follows a spate of attacks in Kenya’s northeastern Somali regions as well as in the capital Nairobi, with several blasts in the largely ethnic Somali district of Eastleigh.

The attacks are usually blamed on members or sympathisers of Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab fighters, although they have made no claim to the series of blasts, which escalated after Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last year.

According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees over 33,600 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone and the country hosts refugees from nine nations in total.

“The government of Kenya has decided to stop reception, registration and close down all registration centres in the urban areas with immediate effect,” said Katelo.

Dadaab, around a 100 kilometres from the main border with Somalia, hosts over 468,700 mainly Somali refugees.

Kakuma, around a 100 kilometres from the border with South Sudan, hosts over 103,600 refugees, almost half of whom are Somalis, the rest largely being made up of Sudanese or South Sudanese, officials said.

Last week, Katelo said the decision was due to the rising insecurity where in some cases refugees have been implicated.

Katelo said the government has further stopped registration of asylum seekers and closed all registration centers.

Internal security PS Mutea Iringo said most Somali refugees are roaming in the country instead of being at the refugee camps where they are registered and blamed them for the insecurity situation.

“Some of the suspects arrested are refugees who have their way from the refugee camps to here, and we will conduct countrywide operations to ensure all refugees are taken back Dadaab,” he said.

Iringo said the government was in talks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to have them sent back home since normalcy has returned in Somalia.

Officials say a message intercepted from the Somali Islamist extremist group al-Shabab shows the rebels are being offered up to Sh890,000 to kill Kenyan security officers.

There are more than 500,000 refugees at the camps in the larger Dadaab refugee camp.

In September, President Kibaki asked UN agencies and international organizations working in Somalia to relocate to the liberated areas and directly provide humanitarian assistance to Somalis living there.

Kibaki, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly also appealed to the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon to mobilize all relevant agencies to embark on relocating the refugees living in Kenya to liberated areas of Somalia, noting that the situation created by the presence of over 650,000 refugees in Daadab camp in Kenya was untenable.