Thousands of new refugees (asylum seekers) in Northern Kenya

Nairobi (KON) - The UN refugee agency said Saturday it has registered 5,860 new Somali refugees and asylum seekers in 45 days at the Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya.
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Thousands of new refugees (asylum seekers) in Northern Kenya

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kenya government’s Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) said 772 persons were registered in Hagadera camp, followed by 1,501 in Ifo camp and 616 in Ifo 2, adding up to a total of 2,889 persons.

"Between April 14, when registration resumed, and May 31, a total of 5,088 refugees and 701 asylum seekers were registered in the Dadaab camps," UNHCR said in its latest report on Dadaab refugee camp.

Since the first forceful relocation of urban refugees on April, UNHCR said it has received more than 600 persons in Dadaab.

"In addition, an unknown number of refugees who had left Dadaab for urban areas came back to the camps voluntarily and reunified with their family and relatives residing in the camps," it said.

The UN refugee agency said it plans to finally move the registration center to Dagahaley camp as more refugees continue to trickle in from urban centers in Kenya.

Kenya’s security forces have been carrying out a countrywide swoop on illegal aliens since April 2 following increased terror attacks by suspected Al-Shabaab militants.

The security which begun in the wake of terror attacks in the coastal city of Mombasa and Nairobi on April 1, has been extended to other parts of the country with aim of screening and arresting foreigners and Kenyans alike thought to have links or harboring criminals.

However, human rights group and leaders from Muslim community have criticized the operation, saying Somali refugees and asylum- seekers living in Kenya are being harassed by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown.

The rights organizations had complained that the registration of Somali refugees in Kenya had been largely halted since December 2011, preventing many who should qualify for refugee status from obtaining papers.

More than 400 Somalis were found without the documents and have since been deported while others were taken back to the Dadaab refugee camp.

UNHCR said the DRA does not yet provide it with details of the persons which the Department transfers by bus from Nairobi to Dadaab.

"Once they arrive to the camps, UNHCR conducts interviews and ensures that the new arrivals from Nairobi have access to assistance.

"Some of the refugees brought to Dadaab are registered in Kakuma and seek to re-unify with their family members there," it said.

"Their details were shared with DRA to authorize their movement. UNHCR is working on the logistical arrangements for the facilitated reunification in Kakuma."

According to UNHCR, the main concern urban refugees and asylum seekers raise during interviews with UNHCR staff members is family separation as many parents had to leave small children behind.

"Other main issues are the interruption of medical treatment and of education as well as the loss of livelihood.

"Some refugees were in an advanced stage of the resettlement process and now fear that they will not be able to move to a third country," UNHCR said.

Kenya has also ordered all refugees living in urban areas to return to their camps in a bid to end attacks by armed groups carried out in retaliation for Kenya’s intervention in neighboring Somalia.

Kenyans were also asked to report any refugees or illegal immigrants outside the overcrowded camps—Dadaab in the east and Kakuma in the northwest—to the police.

Kenyan security officials believe armed groups have used the refugee camps as bases to prepare attacks and then mingled with residents in urban areas to carry them out.

However, the UN refugee agency has called on the government to reconsider its directive to move about 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers from urban areas to overcrowded and underserviced refugee camps.

The East and Horn of Africa continue to suffer from conflict and displacement but Kenya remains the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

While most people fleeing from conflict in South Sudan arrive in Kakuma in northern Kenya, most Somali refugees flee to Dadaab, located in Garissa County in the former North Eastern Province of Kenya.

The Dadaab refugee complex has a population of 355,709 refugees and asylum seekers as at May 31 and consists of five camps. About 96 percent of the refugees are from Somalia.

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