Kenya: Thousands of refugees at Kenya’s border have been turned away and forcibly returned after Somalia’s rampant violence. This has left them susceptible to hunger, beatings and rape.
According to a report released by Amnesty International, the Kenyan government has been urged to reopen its border with Somalia, which it closed in January as Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers drove Islamic insurgents toward the frontier. The group also called on Kenya to help Somali refugees stranded at the border receive proper humanitarian aid and protect them from attacks by armed groups.
Kenya’s government said in January that it closed the border to keep militants from entering the country. It also said it would not accept any Somali refugees because Ethiopian and Somali soldiers were not directly attacking civilians.
Amnesty International said in its report there were between 5,000 and 7,000 Somali refugees waiting to enter Kenya when the border closed in January. The group also reported that Kenyan border guards ejected 400 people, mostly women and children, on the day of the closure which according to them is a violation of international law.
The organization launched a fact-finding mission to Kenya in March to investigate reports that refugees were being denied entrance to the country and those who had managed to get into camps were not being registered properly and therefore did not receive aid.
The final report estimated that nearly 2,000 refugees who had crossed into Kenya illegally were fearful of registering with humanitarian agencies and did not have access to food or other aid.
“The border crossing has contributed to increased human rights violations since those who have been forcibly returned to Somalia are facing death, starvation and other terrible abuses, including beatings and rapes,” Corbett said. “Others who are stranded near the border face similar threats and risks to their lives.”
She said Amnesty has made several requests to the Kenyan government to reopen the border, but has not received any response. The group said it will present its report to the Kenyan ambassador to the US on Wednesday and appeal to the US to increase pressure on Kenya.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. A UN-backed transitional government was established in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control over the country.