UN refugee agency appeals to Kenya to halt forced return of Somalis
“Kenya has for many years been generous host to many thousands of Somali refugees,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release regretting orders issued to refugees in Border Point 1 camp at Mandera in northeast Kenya.
“To be forcibly returning people to Somalia now betrays that spirit, places lives at risk, and contravenes the principles of non-refoulement – or no forced return – that are contained in Kenya's Constitution, its Refugees Act, and in international refugee law,” the agency stated.
The agency reported that some refugees had already crossed back over the border into a “no-man’s land,” recalling that people fleeing central and southern Somalia are at substantial risk and that their international protection needs must be respected.
The population at the Border Point 1 camp, according to UNHCR, mainly comprises children, women, and the elderly – all of whom have fled there to escape recent fighting between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Janaa forces in the Somali town of Bulla Hawa.
“We urge Kenya's government to urgently halt further returns and allow those in no-man's land to come back,” the agency said.
Last week, following a new surge of displacement from Somalia, UNHCR urged Kenyan authorities to speed up relocation of new arrivals so that people can be moved away from the border and into a reception centre where the agency and its partners can attend to their protection and assistance needs.
There are some 1.46 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, with an additional 614,000 Somalis living as refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.