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Kenya accused of 'intimidating' Somali refugees to voluntarily repatriate

Kenya accused of 'intimidating' Somali refugees to voluntarily repatriate

Kenya

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Kenyan government of intimidating Somali refugees living in the Dabaab camp to repatriate leaving them no choice than to return in fear.

A report released by HRW on Wednesday said some of the 263,000 refugees in the camp say they have agreed to return home because they fear Kenya will force them out if they stay.

“The Kenyan authorities are not giving Somali refugees a real choice between staying and leaving, and the UN refugee agency isn’t giving people accurate information about security conditions in Somalia,” refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch, Bill Frelick, was quoted in the report.

HRW also said some of the refugees are leaving because of the silence over alternative options that would allow them to remain in Kenya, inadequate information on conditions in Somalia, and a US$400 UN cash grant they would forfeit if they were deported later this year.

The group said the fueling of fear and misinformation from the authorities do not meet international standards for voluntary refugee return.

“The 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits refoulement, the return of a refugee “in any manner whatsoever” to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened,” they cited.

HRW said the refugees are afraid to return to Somalia, but also afraid of being arrested and deported if they stay in Dadaab until the November deadline.

“It’s not the right time for us to go back. But every day the Kenyan government is telling us that we have to go, and UNHCR is not giving us any different information… I said I will go back as we have no other option,” a 42-year-old woman from Hiraan region was quoted in the report.

HRW wants the Kenyan government to publicly declare that Somali refugees fearing return will be allowed to remain. It also wants the UNHCR and its partners to fully and accurately inform refugees about security conditions in Somalia.