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UNHCR Kenya office defends action against refugees

UNHCR head of unit in charge of Risk Management, Compliance and Quality Robert Hurt says it was up to police to determine how to restore order, saying not even refugees are not above the Kenyan laws/CFM NEWS

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15- The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) based in Westland has come out to absolve itself from any wrongdoing following a scuffle last week between security officers and refugees.

The refugees were protesting delayed services by the agency when they were roughed up by security guards, resulting in the deployment of police officers who lobbed teargas to disperse them.

UNHCR Head of Unit in Charge of Risk Management, Compliance and Quality Robert Hurt who addressed journalists on Wednesday said it was up to the police to determine how to restore order, saying even refugees are not above Kenyan laws.

“We encourage people (refugees) to abide with the laws of Kenya. There are laws governing assembling and demonstrations since if they break the law, they run the risk of being arrested and being brought before the court as any person would. So, refugees are not above the law,” he said noting that it “is only a very small number that are resorting to actions that potentially break Kenyan laws.”

Some refugees have accused the agency of failing to remit their monthly financial support but Hurt says some don’t meet the criteria.

READ: Police disperse refugees outside UNHCR offices in Nairobi

He has affirmed that only those who have met the criteria will continue receiving any help they’re entitled while insisting they won’t be bullied into submission since it would mean some refugees will be deprived of their rightful share of support.

The refugees have been camping outside the agency’s offices for months, living in deplorable conditions.

“If they are entitled to assistance, then they should receive it. But we have also had persons who do not meet the criteria, and this has been explained to them but they insist on receiving it but we cannot be bullied into giving assistance would only deprive others, who are entitled to receive it,” he asserted.

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During the May 10 protests, refugees who spoke to Capital FM News said they had opted to camp outside the agency offices since they had been kicked out of their rental houses due to arrears.

Jean Claude, who had his documentation papers with him said he had exhausted all options other than staying outside the offices in the cold and ever-changing weather.

“I cannot go back to Kawangware with any support,” Claude, a physically challenged refugee from DRC Congo told Capital FM News.

Police arrested more than 10 refugees during the protests.

While the refugees claimed they have no means to air their grievances, Hurt who addressed journalists along Fathiaa Abdalla a Representative with UNHCR refuted them.

“Our office is accessible, we have a reception, a helpline, a complaint box,” Abdalla said.

-The exploitation of refugees-

There have been reports of refugees fleeing from violence being exploited as a condition for being registered.

Some refugees have even claimed of being coerced to bribe for the crucial paperwork.

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But UNHCR denied the allegations saying they have a zero tolerance to fraud and corruption and where such allegations are there, they should be forward to the agency’s Inspector General for investigation.


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