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Refugees International condemns Kenyan order to forcibly relocate refugees

Washington, DC – Refugees International (RI) condemns Kenya’s decision on Tuesday to order tens of thousands of city-dwelling Somali refugees into camps. A similar decision in 2012 was declared unconstitutional by the Kenyan High Court, but not before it sparked violence, harassment, and extortion against refugees at the hands of Kenyan security services. RI calls on the Kenyan government to immediately withdraw this order, and RI asks the United Nations and donor countries to publicly oppose its implementation.

“Kenya has signed international conventions that allow freedom of movement for refugees, and Tuesday’s decision flies in the face of those assurances,” said RI Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell. “For years, Kenya was a generous host to Somali refugees, permitting many to become self-sufficient and contribute to the country’s economy and society. This decision marks a disturbing shift in the wrong direction, and it should not stand.”

In July 2013, the Kenyan High Court struck down a 2012 directive to force all refugees into camps. In his decision, Judge D.S. Majanja wrote that the order “threatens the rights and fundamental freedoms of the petitioners and other refugees residing in urban areas and is a violation of freedom of movement…right to dignity…and violates the State’s responsibility towards persons in vulnerable situations.”

After the 2012 directive was issued, RI advocates heard accounts of security officials threatening refugees in their homes, arbitrarily arresting them, taking their property, and even sexually assaulting women and girls in front of family members. Many Somali refugees fled Kenya because they felt it was no longer safe. This new order could lead to yet another round of violence and abuse.

“The government’s decision to effectively ignore a ruling of the High Court should concern all of Kenya’s residents, citizens and refugees alike,” added Mr. Yarnell. “It should also concern Western governments and the UN, who have supported the rights of urban refugees around the world. If implemented, Kenya’s moves would set a dangerous precedent that could endanger millions of people.”

Refugees International is a non-profit organization that advocates for life-saving protection for displaced and stateless people worldwide and accepts no government or UN funding. For more information, visit www.refugeesinternational.org.

Contact:
Michael Boyce +1 202 361 6131, michael@refugeesinternational.org