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Groups decry rise in refugee attacks

By - | January 23rd 2013


Civil society groups have called on the Government to stop police harassment of refugees.

The Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK), on behalf of the Urban Refugee Protection Network (URPN), said there has been a dramatic increase in attacks on refugees and Kenyans of ethnic Somali origin.

“The incidences were sparked by the Government’s December 18, 2012 order for all refugees and asylum seekers in Nairobi to move to Dadaab and Kakuma camps. The harassment and abuse are perpetrated not only by criminal gangs, but also by the law enforcement officials who are supposed to protect everyone ,” said RCK Executive Director Lucy Kiama.

She said URPN, an umbrella body of agencies promoting human rights in Kenyan cities, has recorded reports of extortion, physical abuse and loss of property.

“We have also seen an increase in police round-ups, arbitrary arrests and harassment of refugees and persons of specific ethnicities by security officers,” she said.

Late last year, the Government gave directives that all refugees living in urban centres were to be moved to camps in northern Kenya such as Dadaab and Kakuma and that no assistance should be given to refugees outside these camps.

It is believed that Nairobi alone hosts more than 30,000 Somali refugees. The groups also voiced concerns on media coverage linking refugees to insecurity without evidence.

Kituo Cha Sheria Programme Co-ordinator on Forced Migration Solomon Wasia said the coverage has aggravated xenophobic attitudes towards genuine refugees and asylum seekers who are law abiding people seeking protection from prosecution and conflicts in their home countries.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are not a threat to national security,” he said. UPRN said it condemned all acts of terrorism and remains committed to helping the Government to build a strong asylum system that would exclude criminals from refugees, as is the practice in international law.

The organisation also raised concerns over the instruction from the Ministry of Provincial Administration and Internal Security to the Ministry of Special Programmes to offer humanitarian assistance during the relocation.

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