Amnesty International has said in a new report released on Tuesday that Kenya is “deliberately coercing” thousands of Somali refugees to return to their war-ravaged home.
The human rights group said the Kenyan Government who intended to shut down the Dadaab camp – which is home to about 250,000 refugees – by the end of November, have been threatening refugees to return to Somalia before the deadline.
Refugees interviewed by the rights group revealed that they were only considering leaving the camp because Kenyan government officials threatened them.
Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes region, Michelle Kagari, said the officials were telling refugees they must leave now or will be forced to after the deadline without assistance.
”These actions contravene the Kenyan government’s assurances to the international community that it would ensure all refugee repatriations are voluntary and carried out in safety and dignity,” said Kagari.
A day before the human rights group’s report was released, Kenya through the Interior Ministry had already said it would not meet the deadline. It cited the Somalia government’s incapability to guarantee basic social services and the safety of the returning refugees.
”We feel pained when people say that we are pushing these people out,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said, adding that more than 30,000 left the camp voluntarily between May and October.
”If indeed we were coercing them, why would we be having about 250,000 people still there? Wouldn’t we already have repatriated all of them?”
Amnesty International didn’t, however, lay the blame solely on Kenya regarding its bid to repatriate the refugees.
”Kenya’s increased restrictions on Somali refugees comes at a time of shocking failures by rich countries to accept their fair share of responsibility,” noted Kagari.
”Rather than focusing on returning refugees to Somalia, where they are at risk of further human rights abuses, the international community should be working with Kenya to ensure long-term sustainable solutions.”