Kenya Urged to Combat Police Abuse of Somali Refugees
Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:00 AM

Human Rights Watch urged the Kenyan government to combat rampant police abuse of the 10,000 Somali refugees currently entering the country every month.  The report, "Welcome to Kenya": Police Abuse of Somali Refugees, also called on the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to improve its registration and monitoring activities, and for foreign governments to increase funding for the crisis.

The refugees, most of whom are women and children, are fleeing the violence and anarchy of their homeland, but encounter appalling treatment at the Kenyan border. Contrary to international laws governing civilians fleeing war zones, the Somali refugees find themselves “welcomed to Kenya with rape, whippings, beatings, detention, extortion, and summary deportation," said the report’s main author, Gerry Simpson.

Somali refugees who succeed in entering Kenya face grim living conditions in the refugee camps set up to receive them.  Dadaab, a temporary settlement designed for 90,000, is currently home to 300,000 refugees – the largest refugee settlement in the world.  In addition to a public health and nutrition crisis (acute malnutrition stands at 13 per cent, and communicable diseases are rife), refugees at Dadaab continue to face victimization by both the Kenyan police and Somali gangs. While violence between camp residents is common, the Kenyan police - long ranked as among the most corrupt institutions in the world - make virtually no effort to maintain safety and security in the camps.

The report also urged UNHCR to intensify its efforts to protect the health and human rights of the Somali refugees.  Both underfunded financially and overwhelmed by the volume of people fleeing violence in Somalia, UNHCR has struggled to either hold the Kenyan government to its international obligations, or to register all the refugees entering the country.  As a result, many go unregistered and without access to even the insignificant services offered at the camp.

Complied from Kenya police abusing Somali refugees: report, AFP (17 June 2010); "Welcome to Kenya": Police Abuse of Somali RefugeesHuman Rights Watch (17 June 2010); Kenya must treat Somali refugees humanely, The East African (22 November 2008).