The UN refugee agency said it is very concerned about the increasing trend by the Kenyan authorities to forcibly deport Somali asylum seekers to their country.  In the latest incident, which occurred Wednesday, Kenya returned 31 asylum seekers traveling by bus to Dadaab refugee camps.

The UN refugee agency said the 31 Somali asylum seekers included nine men, eight women and 14 children.  The agency said the military intercepted the bus on which the Somalis were traveling and took them to Dadaab police station.

UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, said the military later escorted the bus to Dobley, a center near the Somali border.

"When we asked for intervention, we were informed that the police and military continue to return asylum seekers to Somalia acting on instructions from the authorities in Provincial Headquarters in Garissa," he said. "We sent a formal complaint to the minister of immigration and registration of persons protesting these actions.  Our concern is that despite bringing such cases to the attention of the government, no action has been taken," he added.

Redmond said police in Dadaab confirm there was a similar incident nearly two weeks ago in which 61 asylum seekers were arrested by military officers and later returned to Liboi.  He said earlier in January, three other asylum seekers were forcibly returned to Somalia by the authorities.

The UNHCR spokesman said most of the people crossing the border into Kenya come from insecure areas around the Somali capital, Mogadishu.  He said officially, the border between the two countries is closed.

"But, there have been tens of thousands of people annually still coming across.  Some of them, however, when they are picked up by authorities, they are returned.  But, we do not always get news of this or confirmation of this.  In this particular case, we did and we are quite concerned about it," he said.  

The UNHCR said the Kenyan government must adhere to and show full respect for the principle of non-refoulement.  It said this principle is enshrined in Kenya's Refugees Act and International Law, with regard to Somali asylum seekers in particular.