21 February 2014

Somali refugees in Kenya are denied basic rights, discriminated against by the police and see their freedom of movement restricted by being confined to certain areas, according to the report  “No place like home” published by Amnesty International this week. Many Somali refugees live in fear of arrest, deportation and abuse in Kenya.

In November 2013, UNHCR, the Governments of Kenya and Somalia signed an agreement setting out a framework for the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Somalia. However, the report finds that a significant number of displaced people are returning because of human rights abuses they face in Kenya rather than out of an informed and genuine choice to return.

“The environment is now so hostile that some refugees feel they have no option but to return to Somalia where the ongoing conflict in parts of the country continues to destroy lives. This is tantamount to forced return,” states Sarah Jackson from Amnesty International.

The report stresses that if conditions in the refugees’ home country have not changed sufficiently to make the refugees want to go back and they are forced out of the areas where they sought asylum by threats, attacks and expulsions, then the fundamental right of individuals to protection is effectively denied and the foundations are laid for further flight and instability in the region.

“The only person who wants to go back to Somalia is doing so to go from the worst to the worst. If your motherland is that way, and here in Kenya we’re chased all the time, what can we do? I left Dadaab because of insecurity. Now in Nairobi there are security problems here too. It is too bad to be a Somali. But my dream is nothing about Somalia,” stated Ayaan, a 31 year old refugee in Kenya.

Amnesty International urges UNHCR to ensure that all assisted returns to Somalia are voluntary and in accordance with international law and standards, and to carry out effective monitoring of people that have returned to ensure these standards are met.

Amnesty International stresses that Somalia has one of the highest numbers of displaced people in the world, yet displaced people are being driven out of the places where they have sought refuge.

Human Rights Watch has also reported this week that since the beginning of the year, 12,000 Somalis have been deported from Saudi Arabia, without being able to claim asylum.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21 February 2014
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