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UNHCR calls on Kenya to stop forcible return of Somali asylum seekers

Briefing notes

UNHCR calls on Kenya to stop forcible return of Somali asylum seekers

27 January 2009

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the continued forcible return, or refoulement, by the Kenyan government of Somali asylum seekers. The latest incident occurred last week when Kenyan authorities forcibly returned three Somali asylum seekers who had entered the country along the Liboi border area in north-eastern Kenya.

The three - one woman and two men - were among several Somalis whose vehicle was intercepted by the border police as it entered Kenyan territory on 16 January. According to border officials, the driver refused instructions to stop and the police opened fire, wounding three passengers. The injured were taken from Liboi to Dadaab, some 90 km away, to receive medical attention. The fate of the other 26 passengers is unknown to UNHCR.

In Dadaab, the three wounded were interviewed by UNHCR and said they had fled the fighting in Mogadishu and had come to Kenya to seek asylum. UNHCR officially informed the local authorities and requested that they be handed over to the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR for further action.

However, on 21 January, according to hospital officials, six policemen turned up at the Dadaab Health Centre, where the three asylum seekers were undergoing medical treatment for their bullet wounds, ordered them into a police van and drove them to the border. Later in the day, the authorities confirmed that they had been returned to Somalia.

UNHCR brought to the attention of the Kenyan government similar incidents of refoulement of Somali asylum seekers in 2008. We very much regret the latest decision to forcibly return to Somalia the three wounded Somalis and call upon the Kenyan authorities to fully respect the principle of non-refoulement, as enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and Kenya's own Refugees Act.