Kenya: Crackdown on irregular migrants risks sparking xenophobia
Kenya must halt the ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrant workers that have seen homes raided and hundreds of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arrested around the country, Amnesty International said today.
The raids have intensified since 27 August, when the country’s Immigration Department set up a hotline number for citizens to report irregular migrants in their neighbourhoods. The authorities’ actions targeting irregular migrants have mostly affected refugees and asylum seekers.
“It is extremely worrying that citizens are being encouraged to call a hotline to report cases of suspected undocumented migrants. This approach is likely to ignite xenophobia against foreign workers, refugees and asylum seekers,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes,
“This hotline should be immediately shut down. All those arrested in the crackdown should have their detention reviewed before a tribunal, to verify whether it is lawful, necessary and proportionate. All refugees and asylum seekers arrested in this crackdown should be released, as they cannot be deported.”
On 21 May 2018, the Kenyan authorities began a 60-day process of verifying work permits held by foreigners in the country. On 24 August, Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiang’i ordered the Immigration Department and security forces to arrest, detain and deport all irregular migrants by 30 November.
The directive has led to numerous house raids in Nairobi and its environs, including Rongai, Mwiki, Pangani, Ngong, Kasarani and Githurai, and in other towns, such as Bungoma, Nyeri, Eldoret and Nakuru. Amnesty International’s finding show people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan (i.e. countries of origin of many refugees and asylum-seekers) have been affected.
“Some people were picked up from their homes and others from places of worship, and those found without documents detained in police stations, some since Friday, 24 August,” said Seif Magango.
“The Kenyan government must stop hounding people who have fled war and persecution in their home countries, but instead protect them. They must not be forced to return to countries where they would be at risk of harm.”
Students with valid papers have also been affected. In one case, documented by Amnesty International, one South Sudanese student with a valid student visa and another on a valid visitor visa were arbitrarily detained overnight on 26 August.
“Detention of refugees and asylum-seekers with a view to deport them back to their country of origin is unacceptable and goes against Kenya’s own constitution and its international obligations on how to treat refugees and asylum seekers,” said Seif Magango.