Kenya orders refugees to camps

2012-12-19 00:00

NAIROBI — A wave of bombings, shootings and hand-grenade attacks blamed on Somali militants prompted Kenya yesterday to order all refugees and asylum seekers to report to two camps and to bar them from living in towns.

Kenya has experienced a spate of violent attacks, mostly in the capital and close to the Somali border, since it sent soldiers into its anarchic neighbour last year to drive out Islamist rebels linked to Al-Qaeda.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks, which have contributed to rising insecurity, a growing concern as the region’s biggest economy prepares for a presidential election next March, the first poll since a contested 2007 vote which unleashed nationwide ethnic violence.

Badu Katelo, the acting commissioner for refugee affairs in Kenya, said the decision was taken by the government following the attacks by people who are thought to be from Somalia. The directive would affect more than 100 000 refugees of various nationalities living in urban areas.

“The people who are perpetuating these attacks live in refugee populations … Kenyans are seeing this group of people are a kind of threat to their lives.”

Kenya hosts over 525 000 Somali refugees, most living in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, close to the Somali border. Under the new directive, Somali refugees are required to be housed at Dadaab, while all other refugees must reside at Kakuma, a camp near Kenya’s frontier with South Sudan.

In the past, those who could support themselves or were in need of specialised education or medical care were allowed to live in urban areas.

The United Nations refugee agency spokesperson Emmanuel Nyabera raised concerns over the rights of the refugees. “We are trying to come up with a position so that the rights of refugees are respected and the concerns of the government addressed,” he said.

One person was injured in a grenade attack on Sunday, days after two separate strikes hit the Eastleigh area last week. Tensions have risen in the past two months in Eastleigh, a part of Nairobi commonly dubbed “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali population.

In November, street battles erupted between Kenyans and ethnic Somalis in Eastleigh after a bomb on a minibus killed seven people in the area. — AlertNet.

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