By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa
NAIROBI, Kenya – More than half of Mogadishu’s population has fled the city since fighting began between forces of the transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents. According to the UN, more than one million Somalis are homeless and nearly 200,000 have fled their home in the past two weeks alone. Many of the refugees fled to nearby Kenyan camps, despite the fact that Kenya closed its border with Somalia in January.
Two weeks ago, a group of Somali refugees flew from Mogadishu to Uganda via Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Of that group, 18 were forcibly deported back to Mogadishu without being given a chance to file for asylum according to Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR. The UNHCR was denied access to the detained women and children. The remaining refugees were held in the airport and chose to engage in a hunger strike until they were allowed into the refugee camp.
The Kenyan police believed the group were not refugees but in fact victims of a human trafficking ring. According to the airport police commander, Joseph Mumira, the group was not being deported but taken back from where they came. This past weekend a Nairobi court held the deportation of refugees to a war zone against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later the group, which included seven women and five children, was allowed into Dadaab camp. The Muslim Human Rights Forum of Kenya condemned the deportation of the first group but applauded the government’s decision to grant asylum despite the delay.
Meanwhile on Saturday, the Kenyan police detained a group of refugees who illegally arrived through the Liboi border in two vehicles. The group of 50 Somalis were arrested and deported.
Since the closing of the Kenyan border, hundreds of Somalis fleeing Mogadishu have been living in a makeshift camp in Doble.
For more information please see:
BBC- Hunger Strike Somalis get Asylum – 26 November 2007
Reuters: Africa- UN says Somali Asylum-Seekers let into Kenyan Camp – 26 November 2007
BBC- Somali Refugees on Hunger Strike – 21 November 2007
AllAfrica.com- High Court Reprieve for Somali Asylum Seekers – 24 November 2007