Kenya cops abusing Somali refugees

March 30, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – An international Human Rights Organisation on Monday accused the Kenya police of numerous violations on Somali refugees who are often subjected to forceful deportation and extortion.

In a report dubbed "From Horror to Hopelessness," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the police were culpable of many other violations including rape and illegal detentions.

"Kenyan police detain the new arrivals, seek bribes – sometimes using threats and violence including sexual violence – and deport back to Somalia those unable to pay," Gerry Simpson, a researcher with HRW said.

“The police have deported hundreds of Somali refugees fleeing violence while others continue to demand hefty bribes from helpless refugees trying to enter Kenya,” he added.

He said all the violations meted on the Somali refugees contravened Kenya’s fundamental obligations under international and Kenyan refugee law.

“We even have testimony of one of the girls who said she was raped by a policeman at Dadaab refugee camp,” he said.

The report said the refugees’ plight was aggravated by the 2007 closure of the Kenya-Somalia border.

Statistics available at police headquarters show that up to 165 Somali refugees or more cross into Kenya every day.

“Many others are sent back when they fail to pay bribes demanded by the police,” the report adds.

 “This is a flagrant violation of international law and has caused Kenyan political authorities to turn a blind eye to police corruption and abuses in the border areas and the camps," the report said.

Currently, refugee camps in Dadaab, the largest in the world, which have a capacity of 90,000 people, are too overcrowded and hosts up to 255,000 refugees.

The situation, the report states, has led to an acute shortage of water, food and other essential commodities, thus threatening the lives of the refugees.

In a swift rejoinder, the Police Commissioner Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali defended his officers and maintained that they ‘always uphold professional integrity in handling refugees as it is the case with other security matters.’

”Kenya Police has studied these allegations and finds them to be deliberate falsehoods concocted to discredit Government efforts and depict Kenya as hostile to Somali refugees,” the police chief said in a statement on his behalf by force Spokesman Erick Kiraithe.

He denied his officers were, in any way, involved in violations of refugees’ rights and urged lobby groups ‘to desist from tainting their reputation.’

“Kenya’s track record in handling refugees is internationally recognised and acclaimed. It is therefore absurd for an NGO to turn around and blame the Government on the basis of concocted falsehoods,” a statement from Police headquarters said.


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