Thursday, June 17, 2010
Refugees: We must not forget our own
Thursday, June 17 2010 at 17:40
As the world marked International Refugee day, Kenyan security agencies were being accused of mistreatment and abuse of asylum seekers.
‘‘Welcome to Kenya – Police Abuse of Somali Refugees’’ is the title of a report released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch.
The international group accuses the Kenya police of systematic extortion, robbery, rape, beatings and illegal detention and repatriation of Somalis nationals fleeing their war-ravaged country.
That is a severe indictment of a country that, over the past four decades, has been a magnet for refugees from troubled countries across the region.
Kenya currently hosts 325,000 refugees from Somalia, and over the years, has given shelter to large numbers from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda.
It is, therefore, gratifying to note that the authorities have pledged to investigate the matter and take corrective action. It is completely unacceptable that police officers should be the ones breaking the very laws they are sworn to protect.
But as a police spokesperson pointed out, the sins of a few individual officers should not be used to besmirch the entire Police Force.
Therefore, Human Rights Watch should produce concrete evidence – particularly in bringing forward the actual complainants to help the investigations.
It is also important for the international community to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices Kenya makes by readily hosting refugees.
Finally, while Kenya plays its part as a responsible member of the international community by giving asylum to hundreds of thousands from across the borders, it must not forget its own internal refugees.
Some half million Kenyans were run out of their homes during the shameful post-election violence. Most of them have not been able to go back to the only homes they knew because of continuing threats, and the lack of interest shown by a government that seems to have washed its hands off the whole affair.