Kenya accused of violating int'l law for forcibly returning Somali refugees
NAIROBIOct 12, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Oct 12, 2016 12:00 am
Kenya is violating international law by forcing residents of the world's largest refugee camp to return to Somalia, an aid agency said Monday. Kenya insists that the closing down the Dadaab refugee camp, home to over 280,000 refugees mostly from Somalia, has being carried out in line with international law but the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Monday that "the voluntary returns process does not meet international standards." This means Kenya could be guilty under international law of the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers.
"The pressure to push more than 280,000 registered refugees from Dadaab camp has led to chaotic and disorganized returns," said NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland. "From what we have seen on the ground, it is no longer voluntary, dignified nor safe."
"Refugees in Dadaab need international protection. The Kenyan government and the U.N. refugee agency should reinstate the organized and voluntary process of return under the Tripartite Agreement. The unrealistic deadline must be removed before the situation further deteriorates," Egeland added. The Tripartite Agreement for the voluntary return of Somali refugees from Kenya was signed by the Kenyan and Somali governments and UNHCR in 2013."The initial returns program under the 2013 Tripartite Agreement was largely a success, as it saw Somalis would be assisted to reach their return locations safely and with dignity. We should return to the terms of this agreement, rather than simply aiming to push back as many refugees as possible," said Egeland.
The government announced in May that the vast Dadaab camp in the north-east Kenya would be shut down by November, citing security concerns. Authorities have repeatedly alleged that the camp is a breeding ground for terrorism but has not provided evidence to back the claims.
The NRC said that apart from the involuntary nature of the returns, the volatile security situation in Somalia means that refugees going back cannot be guaranteed protection while basic services there are inadequate.
"The number of vulnerable Somalis planned for return far outstrips the resources available to support them in Somalia," said NRC's Kenya country director Neil Turner.
Refugees are returning to a country that already has over one million people who are internally displaced, where five million lack enough food and where African and Somali forces are still fighting al-Qaida-aligned Shabaab militants.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has been criticized by rights groups for supporting what they also say is the involuntary return of Somali refugees. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) said repatriation was "fueled by fear and misinformation." Returning refugees to a place where their lives or freedoms are at risk is illegal under the 1951 Refugee Convention.