Somali refugees in Kenya are facing pressure on multiple fronts. Earlier this year, the Kenyan government announced that all urban refugees must report to refugee camps. At the same time, the government launched a security operation aimed at rooting out alleged members of the Al Shabab terrorist organization from Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali neighborhood in Nairobi. Together, these two initiatives opened the door to increased levels of abuse, extortion, and harassment of refugees by the Kenyan police. This comes as the Kenyan government is publicly urging large-scale returns of Somali refugees even though the humanitarian situation inside Somalia is deteriorating severely.
•The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) must publicly uphold its urban refugee policy and do more to meet its mandate to protect refugees by increasing international staff for urban refugee protection programming in Kenya.
•Donor governments and philanthropic foundations must strengthen support to Kenyan organizations providing legal aid to urban refugees.
•The Kenyan government must meet its obligations under the Tripartite Agreement to provide protection and assistance to refugees, and should implement the recommendations of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
•Donor governments, in particular the United States and the United Kingdom, must support the Kenyan government to ensure that it acts on the recommendations of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
•UNHCR and the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs must coordinate to ensure that information regarding the repatriation of Somali refugees is communicated accurately and consistently.
•UNHCR must apply lessons learned from its experience supporting the return of internally displaced Somalis as it implements its Somali refugee repatriation programming. Both programs must support more resilient and sustainable livelihoods for returnees, and better link with longer-term development efforts to ensure conditions for return are sustainable.
Mark Yarnell and Alice Thomas traveled to Kenya in July 2014 where they interviewed government officials, UN agencies, national and international non-government organizations, and refugees and asylum-seekers in Nairobi and Dadaab refugee camp. Additional information on challenges facing Somali returnees and deportees was provided by Maimuna Mohamud, an RI consultant in Mogadishu.