By: Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya has ordered all urban-based Somali refugees to move into designated camps in a bid to end attacks by militant Islamists.

South-Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma camp (photo courtesy of AFP)


The order has been issued because of “emergency security challenges” facing Kenya.

A refugee group condemned the decision as “illegal.”

Kenyans were asked to report any refugees or illegal immigrants outside the overcrowded camps.

“Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement.

Until now, refugees who could support themselves or were in need of specialized education or medical care had been allowed to live in urban areas.

Lenku said “all refugees residing outside the designated refugee camps of Kakuma and Dadaab are hereby directed to return to their respective camps with immediate effect.”

Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab group has carried out a flood of attacks in Kenya in recent years.

It was behind the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September, killing 67 people.

On Sunday, at least six people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a church near the coastal city of Mombasa.

This attack came amid heightened warnings of a threat of Islamist violence in Kenya despite boosted security in major cities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

This attack also came days after police arrested two men with a vehicle stashed full of large quantities of powerful explosives prepared in pipe bombs, which experts said would have been strong enough to bring down a major building.

Kenya has repeatedly claimed that refugees crossing over from Somalia are threatening security.

Mr. Ole Lenku said refugee registration centers in Kenya’s main cities would be closed.

All refugees living in cities and towns should report to Dadaab and Kakuma camps.

Dadaab, where people often live in appalling conditions, is home to more than 400,000 mainly Somali refugees.

Kakuma, a vast desert settlement, is home to more than 125,000 refugees from across the region, including Somalia.

“Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Mr Ole Lenku added in a statement.

BBC News says this decision will affect hundreds of thousands Somalis, many of whom who live and work in the cities. This could also worsen overcrowding at the camps.

“Kenya has signed international conventions that allow freedom of movement for refugees, and Tuesday’s decision flies in the face of those assurances,” the US-based Refugee International group said in a statement.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Kenya restricts Somali refugees to camps – 26 March 2014
The East African – Kenya orders all refugees into designated camps – 26 March 2014
Aljazeera – Kenya orders all refugees back into camps – 26 March 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald – Kenya crackdown on refugees after attacks – 26 March 2014
Reuters – Kenya orders Somali refugees back to camps after attacks – 26 March 2014

Author: Danielle Gwozdz