Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Kenyan authorities have been urged not to return refugees to Somalia because of ongoing fighting and abuses against civilians in areas controlled by Kenyan forces and allied militias.
The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) made the call in a statement issued here, saying instead of claiming that “newly liberated areas” are safe for refugee return, Kenyan authorities should reopen the screening centre at Liboi and resume registration of new refugees to ensure they receive assistance.
“Fierce clashes in southern Somalia still pose a grave threat to civilians,” the statement quoted Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW, as saying.“Instead of peddling false claims that the border areas are safe, Kenya should focus on assisting and protecting refugees.”
According to HRW, over the past months, prominent Kenyan officials have called for Somali refugees to go back to Somalia, claiming it is safe for them to return.
During the week of 19 March, then Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the Kenyan military had established a zone inside Somalia that is safe for returning refugees, reiterating President Mwai Kibaki’s statement to the London conference on Somalia on 23 February.
Minister Saitoti was quoted in the media stating that, “Following the combined forces of KDF [Kenya Defence Forces] and AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] some towns have been liberated and it is safe for the refugees to return.”
However, HRW said fighting is ongoing in the border towns and regions Kenya claims to control, and the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab maintains a significant presence there. -0- PANA SEG 30Mar2012