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Pressure piles on Kenya to stop refugee relocation

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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INTERNATIONAL pressure continued to mount yesterday on Kenya’s bid to relocate over 50,000 refugees out of its major cities for security reasons.

Just a day after UNHCR-Kenya opposed the move, another organisation; Human Rights Watch released a press release yesterday opposing the move.

Senior refugee researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch Gerry Simpson said in the statement that the plan would violate refugees’ free movement rights and the unlawful forced eviction of tens of thousands of refugees may be used in the process.

Simpson said relocation would affect refugees’ ability to make a living and unlawfully reduce their access to adequate food, clothing, housing, health care and education.

“Kenya is using recent grenade attacks to stigmatise all refugees as potential terrorists and to force tens of thousands of them into appalling living conditions in already severely overcrowded camps,” he said.

He said if the plan is implemented, Kenya would violate its international and national legal obligations.

“Kenya’s plan to move 55,000 refugees into camps is clearly an unnecessary and disproportionate response to the recent attacks. Kenya should not brand all refugees a security risk and then walk all over the rights of 55,000 people", the statement said.

Kenya which hosts up to 623,000 refugees from Somalia, 14,300 from Ethiopia, 33,000 from Sudan, 5,050 from DRC and 800 returnees has asked UNHCR to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas.

In an earlier statement, the government said the transfer of urban refugees to camps is in relation to a series of attacks in which unidentified people hurled hand-grenades into crowds in various locations, killing and injuring a number of people, including police officers and soldiers.

Local leaders among them MPs of Somali Origin led by deputy speaker and former Lagdera MP Farah Maaalim have opposed the move.

Source: The Star

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