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US: No refugee should be sent home by force

By Graham Kajilwa | June 21st 2016
Simon Kimuyu (Deputy OCPD Ongata Rongai), receives an award from US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec during the outstanding police service awards programme. Godec said the choice to return must be made voluntarily by the refugee themselves. (PHOTO: WILLIS AWANDU/ STANDARD)

Refugees should not be sent back to their home country by force, the United States government has said.

US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec (right) said the choice to return must be made voluntarily by the refugee themselves.

"This should be done at the time they think it is safe to return," he said. Godec said refugees know how circumstances are back at home and they should not be forced to return.

"These people ran away from violence and death. So let us handle them with the dignity they deserve. We have stood with refugees before and we shall always stand with them," he said.

Godec was speaking during celebrations to mark the World Refugee Day in Nairobi yesterday. He said the US was still the leading country that offers asylum to the biggest number of refugees globally, which has been increased to 85,000 this year from the previous 70,000.

But Kenya insisted that by November, the Dadaab refugee camp should not be operational.

"Refugee is not a permanent phenomenon. It is temporary, for seeking asylum. Dadaab is actually the worst protracted case in relation to the deadly Garissa University attack and others in North Eastern region," said Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery in a statement.

Mr Nkaissery said as much as Kenya was a signatory to the 1951 United Nation High Commission for Refugees Convention on refugees and has the Refugees Act in place, it is under threat from Al Shabaab.

He said Kenya will be reviewing the Refugee Act to align it with the Constitution, which will address these challenges and prioritise the country's safety.

volunteer information

"We need all asylum seekers to uphold the law and volunteer information that might threaten the well being of the country," he said.

Nkaissery however assured refugees that the repatriation process would be conducted with dignity, humanity and in a secure environment. "We have already identified nine areas that will offer a safe return for the refugees," he said.

UNHCR country representative Raouf Mazou said the plight of refugees had been reduced to political rhetoric.

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