International Rescue Committee and Kituo Cha Sheria raise concern about indiscriminate arrests and harassment in Kenya’s crackdown on refugees - Press Release
Nairobi 10 Dec 2010 - The International Rescue Committee and Kituo Cha Sheria are expressing concern that Kenyan police are indiscriminately raiding homes of refugees and making random arrests of individuals suspected of being in Kenya illegally.
Approximately 350 mainly Somali and Ethiopian refugees, were detained earlier this week in Nairobi’s largely immigrant suburb of Eastleigh and arrests continue daily. Although news reports say the raids were in response to two attacks in the area last week that killed three policemen, Kenyan police assert that the raids are part of an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigration.
“Thousands of refugees are now living in fear of arrest even if they have identity papers,” says Kellie Leeson, the IRC’s country director in Kenya. “While the attacks on the policemen are unacceptable, it is also reprehensible to target and victimize the entire refugee community here.”
Laban Osoro, legal advocate and coordinator with Kituo Cha Sheria, which partners with the IRC to aid urban refugees, has been representing some of those detained. He says many people arrested on Monday have still not been arraigned.
“This is in blatant violation of their constitutional right to a legal hearing in court within 24 hours of arrest,” says Osoro. “People are also being detained in degrading and unconventional facilities with insufficient access to toilets or beds. This is also against the new constitution.”
Osoro notes that police and the judiciary are claiming that many of the detainees are holding false documents.
“They are using the excuse of needing to verify documents to arrest people and keep them detained for longer,” says Osoro. “This is extremely worrying and something I haven’t seen before in all my five years representing refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya.”
Osoro and Leeson say the refugee community is terrified—afraid to leave their houses for fear of being arrested and afraid to stay home because police are moving from door to door, raiding homes at night.
Earlier this year, the IRC co-authored a report, “Hidden and Exposed: Urban Refugees in Nairobi, Kenya”, http://www.theirc.org/urbanrefugees, which says that refugees in Nairobi face constant police harassment—from officers demanding financial bribes to physical beatings and intimidation. The report called for systematic reforms of the Kenyan police force as well as training of police and government departments on refugee rights.
“Refugee rights are regularly violated here and the latest events in Eastleigh show that the situation is getting worse,” says Leeson. “In 2006, the Kenyan government took a big step forward when it passed the Refugee Act, which outlines refugees’ rights and prescribes measures to protect refugees. We urge the Kenyan government to honor its commitment to those who seek refuge within its borders.”
Note to Editors: For more information or interviews, contact Sophia Mwangi in Nairobi, Sophia.Mwangi@theIRC .org or 254 737 800 028.
About Kituo Cha Sheria: Through its Urban Refugees Intervention Program, the organization offers free legal aid services to urban refugees and asylum seekers in conjunction with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and other partner groups.
The International Rescue Committee in Kenya: The IRC has been providing humanitarian aid to refugees and the Kenyan communities that host them since 1992. The IRC runs extensive medical services at the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, as well as gender violence and sanitation programs. The IRC also focuses on health and peace building programs in Turkana county. In Nairobi, the IRC helps refugee women establish small businesses and access legal assistance. We also educate and advocate about refugee rights and human rights.
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in over 40 countries, offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by conflict, oppression and disaster. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees admitted into the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. For more information, visit theIRC.org