Kenya says refugee relocation facing hostilities

21:20, October 28, 2010      

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Kenya said on Thursday it has been caught in a dilemma between keeping refugees in overcrowded camps and relocating the immigrants to regions where they will face hostility from host communities.

Commissioner for Refugee Affairs in the Ministry of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons Peter Kusimba said that whereas the government has found land measuring 1,370 hectares to resettle the over 300,000 refugees living in Dad'aab Refugee Camp, there was open hostility from the host community that did not welcome their presence. "Where some have been a bit receptive, they have demanded that the living quarters for the stateless persons be constructed with interlocking materials such as bricks for easy dismantling should the need arise," Kusimba told Xinhua on the sidelines of an Open Day for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Nairobi. "They view the erecting of any permanent structure as being tantamount to land grabbing and imposition of an alien community among them by the authorities."

The Commissioner said the consequences of overcrowding in the camps has put pressure on social amenities in the urban areas where a large number has relocated to.

He said the movement of refugees from the camp is in sharp contradiction to the international policy of encampment that requires all registered refugees to live in camps awaiting return to their homeland.

Kusimba said refugees in Kenya have conducted themselves well in accordance with the regulations guiding stateless persons but did not rule out acts of criminality by some. "The cardinal responsibility of a refugee is to conduct himself in accordance with the dictates of the laws of the hosting country. The majority has adhered to this requirement and those who have violated this condition have faced justice like other criminal elements," he said.

The commissioner attributed reports of human trafficking to illegal aliens who he said are different form refugees. "Refugees and illegal aliens both enter the country undocumented, the former group with the anticipation that they will return home when the situation improves while the alien comes with a criminal mind," Kusimba said.

The East African nation has over half a million refugees with the other refugee camp, Kakuma hosting over 90,000 while about 150, 000 reside in urban areas.

The UNHCR Kenya Assistant Representative in Charge of Protection Louise Aubin lauded the Kenyan government for the hosting and protecting those who have sought refuge in the country. "Kenya has a strong history in assisting and protecting refugees. This role increased in the last two decades when the country received a massive influx of people fleeing from war in their respective countries," said the UNHCR official. "Kenya has strongly adhered to the international standards relating to the status of stateless persons and has never made refugee protection a political issue."

He said Somalis formed the bulk of the refugee population followed by the Sudanese, Congolese and Ethiopians. "People engage in human trafficking and smuggling as they try to flee. Refugees can be trafficked and trafficked people can become refugees."



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