UN denounces Kenya's order on refugees

Somali refugees at Ifo-extension, situated in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world. The United Nations on Friday denounced the Kenyan government's order for some 50,000 refugees to report to two camps. PHOTO/FILE

New York/United Nations

The United Nations on Friday denounced the Kenyan government's order for some 50,000 refugees to report to two camps.

“All communities are affected by insecurity, and scapegoating refugees is not an answer,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Blanket implementation of encampment measures is arbitrary and unreasonable, and carries a threat to human dignity.”

Mr Edwards added that the UN refugee agency understood Kenya's need to address security concerns.

The government's move came after the latest in a series of deadly attacks on civilians linked to al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based militant group that carried out the Westgate massacre in September.

Gunmen shot dead six worshippers in a church in Likoni last Sunday.

“We are in close contact with the government to see how its security concerns can be addressed in accordance with international legal norms and practices,” Mr Edwards said.

He noted that Kenya has a long history of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. More than 550,000 people—430,000 of them from Somalia—are currently being given refuge in Kenya.

Human Rights Watch has also criticised the order for Somalis living in urban areas of Kenya to move to Dadaab and Kakuma.

"Kenya is once again using attacks by unknown criminals to stigmatise all refugees as potential terrorists," said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW. "This plan to force tens of thousands of refugees into appalling conditions in severely overcrowded camps flouts a crystal clear court ruling banning such a move."

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