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UNHCR Tells Kenya to Stop Deporting Somali Asylum Seekers


The U.N. refugee agency accuses Kenya of forcibly deporting asylum seekers and says it must stop. The UNHCR says the forcible deportation of asylum seekers goes against the principles of the 1951 Geneva Convention, which Kenya has signed.

UNHCR says the last incident occurred on January 16 when Kenyan authorities deported three Somalis who had entered the country along the Liboi border area in northeastern Kenya

U.N. refugee spokesman Ron Redmond says police shot at a vehicle carrying 30 people when the driver refused to stop. He says two men and a woman were wounded. They subsequently were taken about 90 kilometers, to Dadaab, to receive medical attention.

He says the UNHCR does not know what happened to the other 26 Somali passengers.

"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," he said. "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 January 21, according to hospital officials, six policemen turned up at the Dadaab Health Center, 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."

Redmond says the authorities have confirmed the Somali asylum seekers had been returned to Somalia. He says it is difficult for UNHCR staff to monitor the entire Kenyan-Somalia border, so it does not know how many people were forcibly deported last year.

"We do know that some 60,000 Somalis did enter Kenya last year," he said. "This is despite the government's official position that that border is closed. We would just remind all governments that under the 1951 Refugee Convention and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights people have the right to seek and enjoy asylum in neighboring States and they should not be sent back to danger."

Redmond says the UNHCR has spoken to the Kenyan authorities on numerous occasions about its breach of the International Refugee Convention and of Kenya's own Refugees Act. He says Kenya should respect the rights enshrined in these documents.

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