UN refugee agency calls on Kenya to stop forced return of Somali asylum-seekers

27 January 2009

The United Nations refugee agency today called on Kenya to stop the forcible return, or refoulement, of Somali asylum-seekers, after three people, who were wounded crossing the border while fleeing violence in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, were sent back.

“We very much regret the latest decision to forcibly return to Somalia the three wounded Somalis and call upon the Kenyan authorities to fully respect the principle of non-refoulement, as enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and Kenya's own Refugees Act,” Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said today in Geneva.

The latest incident occurred last week, UNHCR reported, when the three – one woman and two men – were among several Somalis whose vehicle was intercepted by the border police as it crossed the border in the Liboi area of north-eastern Kenya.

According to border officials, the driver refused instructions to stop and the police opened fire, wounding the three passengers, who were taken from Liboi to Dadaab, some 90 kilometres away, to receive medical attention. The fate of the other 26 passengers is unknown to UNHCR.

In Dadaab, the three wounded were interviewed by UNHCR and said they had fled the fighting in Mogadishu and had come to Kenya to seek asylum, the agency said.

UNHCR officially informed the local authorities and requested that they be handed over to the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR for further action.

However, on 21 January, according to hospital officials, six policemen turned up at the Dadaab Health Centre, where the three asylum-seekers were undergoing medical treatment, ordered them into a police van and drove them to the border.

Later in the day, the authorities confirmed that they had been returned to Somalia.

The agency said that it had brought to the attention of the Kenyan Government similar incidents of refoulement in 2008 of asylum-seekers from Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for some 18 years.


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