Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Refugees in towns warned of arrest

By FRED MUKINDA [email protected]

Refugees in Nairobi and other towns who disregarded a recent government order to move to camps will be arrested and moved forcefully.

Internal Security permanent secretary Mutea Iringo said the government was working on a plan that would see the camps eventually closed and the refugees relocated to their countries. (Read: NGO opposes move to confine refugees)

“We are working out the modalities of their movement to camps and eventual return to their countries. If they don’t move, we will get them and return them. We are working with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and other agencies involved in their issues,” he said.

The refugee camps are in far-flung areas in North Eastern and Rift Valley provinces.

The government told refugees from Somalia to report to the Dadaab camp while those from other countries should make their way to Kakuma. (Read: Refugees told to get out of towns)

Mr Iringo said crime had increased in towns partly because of the refugees. He said the influx had stretched facilities.

Acting commissioner for refugee affairs Badu Katelo said the registration of new refugees had been stopped.

According to the UNHCR, the Somali refugee population in Kenya has reached 450,000, stretching infrastructure and services.

This number is far beyond the original intended capacity of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps in Dadaab, with a capacity of 90,000.

More than 80,000 refugees and asylum seekers live at Kakuma camp. These include an estimated 43,000 Somalis. Other refugees come mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Due to congestion in Dadaab, new arrivals settled around the area while others moved to urban areas, complicating registration and straining service delivery.

As a result, the host communities and refugees competed for scarce water and wood for fuel, leading to clashes.

On returning them to their countries, Mr Iringo said: “The situation in Somalia is now safe and it’s only them who can rebuild their country. They are best suited because they have suffered for a long time.”

Since the registration of asylum seekers was stopped, listing of fresh ones was restricted to camps. The UNHCR was asked to stop offering any direct services to refugees in urban areas.

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