Children suffer as parents are arrested in security swoop

Nairobi,Kenya: Dozens of Congolese children are living in squalid conditions in Kasarani after their kin were seized during the recent Operation Usalama Watch.

The children aged between two months and 15 years have now been forced to fend for themselves while others are being taken care of by Congolese families left there.

“We have children, some as young as two months, who were left behind by their parents who were taken away during the operation. Some have been taken in by well-wishers, but others are on their own,” a Congolese family told The Standard.

Police raided the Antioch Church in Kasarani on May 4 while the Sunday service was underway and arrested 172 foreigners, most of them Congolese nationals. The other faithful comprised Rwandese and Burundians.

Residents said some the children left behind have been evicted from their houses due to non-payment of rent.

Forcible eviction

“Just last week, a young girl left with her four siblings and nobody knows where they went,” a resident Justus Mithili said.

A young mother, who said she is currently taking care of a two-year-old child whose parents were arrested during the crackdown, said most them now stay indoors for fear of being arrested.

“We can’t even go to seek medical services,” she said.

They said area provincial administration gave them an ultimatum last week to relocate from the area or be forcibly moved.

“It is true the notice deadline is on June 9. They have been warned they will be arrested and now most of them have closed their businesses,” said a resident identified as Mwaura.

A leader of the church said during the police swoop last month, they were ordered to produce immigration documents to prove that they had not sneaked into the country.

“We were allowed to go for the documents from our houses and we were then taken to Safaricom Kasarani Stadium. We were assured we would be allowed to go back to our homes once the verification process was over, but that never happened,” a leader of the church said.

The church leader, who spoke to The Standard on phone from a transit refugee camp in Dadaab, accused police of harassing them despite them proving that they were in the country legally.

Recently, Amnesty International criticised the Government over the manner in which it carried out the ‘Usalama Watch’ operation, terming it a blatant disregard for national and international laws.

Refugee camps

The group has also raised the red flag over relocation of thousands of people to overcrowded refugee camps in Northern Kenya.

“We are being told that our children in Nairobi will be brought here, but the conditions are cruel. The pregnant mothers and children have to contend with the harsh weather and insecurity,” said a man held in Dadaab.

Amnesty International has urged Kenyan authorities to stop harassing refugees and asylum seekers.

“We call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to request an invitation from the Kenyan government for the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants to assess the extent to which Kenya is complying with its regional and international human rights obligations,” AI said in a report recently.