* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
UNHCR is concerned over the arrest and detention of over one thousand refugees and asylum seekers who were rounded up during counter-terrorism operations launched by Kenyan security forces in Nairobi since 4 April 2014 targeting undocumented foreigners. Most of those who have been arrested are Somalis, 82 of whom were deported to Mogadishu on 9 April 2014. While UNHCR was able to secure the exemption of 10 registered refugees from this deportation, at least one refugee is reported to have been among those deported.
While we have received access to Kasarani stadium and police cells where those arrested have been held and we were able to secure the release of a number holding refugee documentation, UNHCR is disturbed by reports of harassment and other abuses. Furthermore, the conditions at Kasarani stadium and in the police stations are overcrowded and sanitary conditions are inadequate.
UNHCR fully recognizes the national security imperatives Kenya faces in the wake of recent devastating terrorist attacks. The vast majority of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya are and have been law-abiding members of their communities. Furthermore, given ongoing hostilities in their country, Somalis, especially those originating from Southern and Central Somalia, continue to be in need of international protection as refugees and should not be returned against their will to a place where their lives will be exposed to risk.
UNHCR welcomes the assurances it has received from the Government that no registered refugee or asylum-seeker will be deliberately deported, but remains concerned that others could also face threats if returned. In addition, if the directive issued on 25 March 2014 ordering all urban refugees to move to the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in the north of the country is implemented, it will disrupt the lives of refugees who have for years settled and built their lives peacefully in Nairobi, Mombassa and other urban areas.
UNHCR remains ready to work with the Government authorities in ways which, while ensuring that Kenya's legitimate security concerns are catered for, would preserve the favourable asylum and protection environment which the country has provided over years, including in the urban areas.
For more information on this subject, please contact:In Nairobi, Caroline Opile on number +254 204 232 127 In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile: +41 79 200 7617