HRW report on Somali refugees in Kenya
Human Rights Watch publicou esta semana un informe sobre as críticas condicións que sofren en Kenya os refuxiados procedentes de Somalia. O informe leva por título “From Horror to Hopelessness: Kenya’s Forgotten Somali Refugee Crisis”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:
Kenya is in the midst of a rapidly escalating refugee crisis. In 2008 alone, almost 60,000 Somali asylum seekers -165 every day- crossed Kenya’s officially closed border with Somalia to escape increasingly violent conflict in Somalia and to seek shelter in three heavily overcrowded and chronically under-funded refugee camps near Dadaab town in Kenya’s arid and poverty-stricken North Eastern Province. The camps now shelter over 260,000 refugees, making them the world’s largest refugee settlement.
The continuous cross-border movement gives the impression that the closing of the border by the Kenyan government in January 2007 has not affected Somali asylum seekers’ ability to seek refuge in Kenya. In reality, however, it has led to the Kenyan police forcibly returning asylum seekers and refugees to Somalia in violation of Kenya’s fundamental obligations under international and Kenyan refugee law, and to serious abuses of Somali asylum seekers and refugees. Emboldened by the power over refugees that the border closure has given them, Kenyan police detain the new arrivals, seek bribes -sometimes using threats and violence including sexual violence- and deport back to Somalia those unable to pay. By forcing the closure of a UNHCR-run registration center close to the border, the Kenyan authorities have also seriously aggravated the humanitarian assistance needs among Somalis arriving in the three camps near Dadaab town.
The influx of tens of thousands of new arrivals into the already severely overcrowded and under-resourced camps has exacerbated shortages of shelter, water, food, and healthcare for all refugees-new and old. An unknown further number of Somalis, possibly in the tens of thousands, have travelled directly to Nairobi where most disappear into the city, receiving no support and remaining invisible to the outside world.
Kenya officially closed its border with Somalia days after the Ethiopian military intervened to oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from south-central Somalia. Apparently aimed at preventing the entry of fleeing supporters of the UIC into Kenya, the border closure has had an extremely negative impact on Somali civilians trying to flee the violence.
The border closure has allowed Kenyan police to forcibly deport Somali asylum seekers and refugees in flagrant violation of international law and has caused Kenyan political authorities to turn a blind eye to police corruption and abuses in the border areas and the camps. The authorities have also forced the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to close its refugee transit center near the border, and for well over a year Kenyan authorities have failed to respond to calls for new land to decongest the camps. To their credit, however, in an unspoken compromise, the Kenyan authorities allowed UNHCR to register almost 80,000 Somali refugees in the camps in 2007 and 2008, and, in February 2009, granted a limited amount of land to help begin decongesting the camps.
Under its Immigration law, Kenya has the right to regulate the presence of non-nationals in its territory and may, therefore, prevent certain people from entering or remaining in Kenya, including those deemed a threat to its national interests. However, international and Kenyan law obliges Kenya to allow all people claiming to be refugees (“asylum seekers”) access to Kenyan territory to seek asylum with the Kenyan authorities or with UNHCR, and every asylum seeker has a right to have his or her case considered.
Since the border closure, the Kenyan authorities have deported hundreds, possibly thousands, of Somali refugees and asylum seekers, thereby violating the most fundamental part of refugee law, the right not to be refouled -forcible return to a place where a person faces a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Under its obligations in the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problems in Africa (1969 OAU Convention), Kenya is also bound not to send refugees or asylum seekers back to situations of generalized violence, such as in Somalia.
The Dadaab refugee camps were originally designed for 90,000 refugees, but by the end of February 2009 held 255,000, a 48 percent increase since January 2008. Because of the lack of new land to expand the camps, UNHCR declared the camps full in late August 2008. Between then and the end of February 2009, just over 35,000 new arrivals received no shelter and have been forced to sleep under open skies in makeshift shelters that provide little protection from the harsh weather, or in cramped confines with relatives or strangers who were already living in conditions well below minimum humanitarian standards. By the end of 2009, the camps are likely to hold at least 300,000 refugees and UNHCR estimates it could be as many as 360,000. […]
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