Monthly Archives: March 2014

UN denounces Kenya’s order on refugees

In response to the earlier decision by the Kenya Government to close urban registration centres that we posted earlier, the UN denounced this order. Below is an article in the Kenyan newspaper Nation that covered this denouncement. What are your thoughts on this order by the Kenyan government?

UN denounces Kenya’s order on refugees

From March 29th edition of Nation Newspaper, by Kevin J Kelley

The United Nations on Friday denounced the Kenyan government’s order for some 50,000 refugees to report to two camps.

“All communities are affected by insecurity, and scapegoating refugees is not an answer,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

(Also see the Editorial: Who’ll protect refugees?)

“Blanket implementation of encampment measures is arbitrary and unreasonable, and carries a threat to human dignity.”

Mr Edwards added that the UN refugee agency understood Kenya’s need to address security concerns.

The government’s move came after the latest in a series of deadly attacks on civilians linked to al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based militant group that carried out the Westgate massacre in September.

Gunmen shot dead six worshippers in a church in Likoni last Sunday.

“We are in close contact with the government to see how its security concerns can be addressed in accordance with international legal norms and practices,” Mr Edwards said.

He noted that Kenya has a long history of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. More than 550,000 people—430,000 of them from Somalia—are currently being given refuge in Kenya.

Human Rights Watch has also criticised the order for Somalis living in urban areas of Kenya to move to Dadaab and Kakuma.

“Kenya is once again using attacks by unknown criminals to stigmatise all refugees as potential terrorists,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW. “This plan to force tens of thousands of refugees into appalling conditions in severely overcrowded camps flouts a crystal clear court ruling banning such a move.”

 What do you think of this denouncement by the UN? Do share your opinion with us!

Refugees ordered to relocate to Kakuma, Dadaab camps as urban registration centres shut in Kenya

By CYRUS OMBATI Nairobi, Kenya: March 25th 2014: From Standard Media

The government has ordered all refugees residing outside Kakuma and Dadaab to return the refugee camps immediately. All refugee registration centres in urban in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Isiolo and Nakuru have also been closed. Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said any refugee found flouting his directive will be arrested and prosecuted. All Kenyans are requested to report to police any refugee or illegal immigrant found outside the designated camps,€ said Lenku in a statement. He said the move is part of the measures they are taking to address the increasing threat of terrorism in the country.

The minister said an additional 500 police officers have been deployed in Nairobi and Mombasa to enhance security and surveillance. He said other security agencies will support the operations.

Lenku added that 109 suspects have so far been arrested following the attack on a church in Likoni, Mombasa and are being interrogated. The move by the minister came amid reports some of the refugees could be behind the terror attacks being witnessed in the country. On Sunday, three gunmen who were armed with an AK 47 rifle dropped a box that had 36 rounds of ammunition as they escaped after killing six people at the church and injured 18 others. On Monday, four empty ammunition boxes were found at the Nakumatt Junction Mall basement.

The boxes were found abandoned on a trolley at the basement and seemed to have stayed there for long. Police have not established the whereabouts of the bullets that were emptied from the boxes or their origin.

What do you think about the connection being made between urban refugees in Nairobi and “terrorism acts” in the city? Do let us know your thoughts!

Check out Community Legal Education Ontario’s (CLEO) Refugee Rights in Ontario Publications

CLEO logo


Click on the CLEO logo to take you to the Refugee Right’s in Ontario Page.

This resource includes links to publications on topics as diverse as “Making a Refugee Claim” and information on the “Refugee Protection Hearing.”

Also check out CLEO’s other projects and publication’s  here

Angolans in DRC have mixed feelings on home

Displaced by Angola’s brutal civil war, some ex-refugees now living in DR Congo still don’t want to return.

 and 13 Mar 2014 13:37. Accessed on Al

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo – Seventy-six-year-old Manuel Francis is aware of the irony of his predicament. As an immigration officer working on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, he was forced to flee Angola in 1999, when the third phase of his country’s civil war broke out. Francis made his way to Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital, to escape the violence.

“I lost everything. A decent house, a good salary. My heart aches when I think about what happened,” said Francis, dressed immaculately in a pinstriped shirt and brown trousers in Kinshasa.

More than 150,000 Angolans made their way into the DRC during the course of the civil war, which began shortly after Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. Some 450,000 others ended up in South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, the Republic of Congo and Botswana.

The civil war dragged on for 27 years, pitting the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) against each other in a bid to control the country. The conflict soon became another proxy battle in the Cold War, with the US backing the UNITA and the Soviet Union supporting the MPLA. South Africa and Cuba also played major roles.

Angola’s brutal civil war, which was funded in part by the country’s mineral wealth, at one stage involved one in three Angolan children fighting as child soldiers. The war is said to have resulted in the deaths of at least 500,000 people, and the displacement of a million people.

Manuel Francis said he lost everything after being forced to flee Angola [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The humanitarian disaster became one of the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) first emergency efforts to protect refugees outside of Europe since the agency’s formation in 1950.

Refugee status terminated

In 2012, as stability returned to Angola, the government of the DRC – like other countries in sub-Saharan Africa with sizable Angolan refugee populations – terminated the refugee status of Angolan refugees. The move was part of a plan to persuade the refugees to return home. For those ex-refugees who wanted to stay, the DRC government said it would make residency permits available.

Around 23,000 Angolans returned through the UNHCR-mediated repatriation programme in 2012. By January 2013, another 22,000 others said they were also prepared to return.

The UNHCR said the third wave of repatriations of Angolan refugees, due to start in mid-2014, is significant because it signals a possible conclusion to one of the continent’s oldest stories of displacement.

But another 47,815 Angolan refugees still live in the DRC, and have signalled their desire to remain. Maria Bueto Laudino, in her late 50s, said her husband was killed in an attack on her house in the country’s capital, Luanda, some 32 years ago. Laudino had to walk for three weeks, with four of her children and two orphans under her care, before she reached the DRC. “I saw beheaded bodies lying on the road along the way,” she said, with tears welling up in her eyes. “Never will these two legs ever return to Angola.”

Maria Laudino said she will never return to Angola                [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Others said they are not confident it is safe for them to return. Francis claims his political history would get him killed if he stepped back into Angola. He is not the only one to speak of “insecurity” back home. Seventy-six-year-old Mendoza Alfonso, one of the first Angolan refugees to arrive in the DRC and a former fighter for the FNLA during the civil war, said returning to Angola was only an option once Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s president since 1979, either steps down or dies.

Furthermore, ex-refugees said those who returned to Angola through the repatriation programme were finding re-integration harder than expected. Some even returned to the DRC after discovering little had been done by Angolan authorities to prepare for their arrival.

Carlos Cainda, president of the Angolan ex-refugee committee in Kinshasa, a loose body representing the community in discussions with the UNHCR and the government, told Al Jazeera many ex-refugees were enthusiastic about returning home, but need assurance that “reintegration was going to work”. Cainda said people would “pack up and go immediately” if they were sure they wouldn’t be forced to find refuge in the DRC again.

Tough times in Kinshasa

The hesitancy to return had little to do with a reluctance to leave Kinshasa, said Dieudonne Yenga, a coordinator with Erukin, an NGO working with urban refugees in the city. Kinshasa is a harsh city, one of the poorer capitals on the continent. Services like electricity, running water and medical care are unreliable, even non-existent in many areas. The lack of infrastructure, development and administrative services in the city mean that civil servants often go unpaid – fuelling a culture of bribery, corruption and criminal impunity.

“People don’t struggle here as they would in a conflict zone,” said Yenga. “The conflict in Kinshasa is an economic one.”

Some Angolan refugees have been here so long that they have integrated into communities between the border region of Ba Congo and Kinshasa. Theresa Nsimba, in her fifties, has been in the DRC for such a long time, she can’t remember when she arrived. Her son has to remind her that it has been 15 years.

It’s no surprise to the authorities, then, that so many Angolan refugees want to stay. Yenga said integration for Angolan refugees was not difficult, because they both speak Lingala and share the same culture as those living in the Kinshasa area. The cultural symmetry across borders is not unique: Refugees from the Central African Republic streaming into the DRC’s Equateur province, and Rwandan refugees who arrived in the DRC’s North Kivu province after the 1994 genocide, share ethnic and linguistic similarities with their host communities.

But the uncertainty over whether to stay or return has split the refugee community. Antione Makiese, 28, works occasional jobs as a mechanic. He is grateful to the DRC for providing him a sanctuary from the war, but now believes it is time to go back home. He plans to take his family to Angola as soon as the repatriation process is restarted. “It’s better to suffer in the country of your own origin than to be suffering in a foreign place,” he said.

Ngadivua Makiese (right) refuses to leave Kinshasa               [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Makiese is married to a Congolese woman, and it’s unclear whether she will be able to make the journey with the family. Makiese’s younger brother, Ngadivua, 24, who has lived here since his teenage years, refuses to leave Kinshasa. This is his home now. But the decision threatens to split the family up once more, after they were forced to leave other family members behind in Angola back in 2001.

Angola’s economy is booming, but with high unemployment and continued poverty, refugees are unsure whether the move back would be an improvement over their current quality of life. Another refugee, living in ramshackle conditions with five children, and diagnosed with HIV, said she was receiving antiretroviral drugs in Kinshasa. She voiced concern over the availability of treatment in Angola, and decided to stay as a result.

The Makiese household, in the heart of Kinshasa’s Ngaliema-Ozone district, bears testimony to the squalid conditions of refugee life in Kinshasa. The family lives in a small brick house below street level, fitted with a corrugated iron roof. The alley off Mama Yemo Avenue that leads to the house is an open gutter of rotting trash, rodents and chickens. But this is not even a slum by Kinshasa standards; the living conditions are not out of the ordinary for millions of Congolese residing in the city and beyond.

‘An example for other countries’

Kinshasa’s poverty means that international groups aiding refugees living there must remain sensitive. The head of the country’s National Commission of Refugees, Berthe Zinga, told Al Jazeera that the DRC tries to ensure through its partners that aid benefits the larger Congolese community, and not just refugees.

The UNHCR said that although refugees would be able to return to Angola, the chance to remain in the DRC would also remain open. In a country with 2.4 million of its own people displaced and hundreds of thousands of refugees living within its borders, the DRC has proven to be generous in allowing refugees to remain.

“In many ways, this is an example for other countries who often do not offer residency to former refugees, which is something we encourage,” said Celine Schmitt, the UNHCR’s senior regional external relations officer, in Kinshasa.

Meanwhile, the immigration officer-turned-refugee, Manuel Francis, said he has no intention of applying for a residency permit in Kinshasa, despite his refusal to return to Angola. “I can’t practice politics here; there are too many spies in this city,” he said matter-of-factly.

Francis spoke slowly, thoughtfully, as he announced that the only way out for him would be to be resettled elsewhere, so that he might return to politics and help “liberate” Angola. “In politics, there is no age limit,” said the septuagenarian Francis. “I will do it to save my children.”

Did you know about Angolan Refugees in DRC? How is it that DRC has had an opend door policy for Refugees, even with its own crises, while other countries have not? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Mix of fear and hope for Somali refugees in Kenya looking to return home

By Bosire Boniface in Garissa

March 11, 2014. From SabahiOnline

While some Somalis residing in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex are taking stock of the living conditions back home before their eventual journey back, others are not ready to return and fear what might happen if the camps are closed prematurely.Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

To better understand refugees’ mixed sentiment on the repatriation process, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), launched on February 25th a comprehensive survey of Somali refugees living in Dadaab camps.

The Return Intention Survey will be conducted over four months, and the results of the survey will be taken into consideration in the planning process for the voluntary repatriation of refugee families, according to IOM.

“In the next two months, 50 enumerators trained by IOM will be in the field to interview a sample of 7,453 households, representing 27 groups of refugees from nine different regions in Somalia, who arrived in three phases to Dadaab,” IOM said in a statement.

The survey will attempt to gather information a host of data points on the refugees, including how they used to earn a living, what property claims they may have, what forced the families to move from Somalia, current living conditions, skills and occupation, why they may choose to return, and their expectations with regard to access to services, security, employment and housing in Somalia, IOM said.

IOM and UNHCR agreed to carry out the survey to ensure the refugees’ views and concerns are heard and taken into consideration, under the framework of a tripartite agreement signed last November between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR.

Hesitation and hope

To inform the public about the correct objectives of the survey, the organisations launched a communications campaign that included a press conference in Dadaab, public service announcements on radio and extensive meetings with refugee leaders.

But despite those efforts, the survey has been greeted with little or no enthusiasm, according to Halima Hussein Abdille, 35, a refugee in Dadaab’s Kambioos camp.

“I am certain that most of the refugees are reluctant to return in Somalia,” she told Sabahi. “But I doubt our voice will sway the Kenyan government which appears decided that we refugees should leave Kenya.”

Abdille, who arrived in the camps in 2007 from Bardhere in Gedo region, said she is not ready to return back home “any time soon” and is braced for forceful evictions from the camps.

“Al-Shabaab killed my cousin in January 2014 accusing him of not being cooperative with their demands. They have killed elderly and clerics there [recently]. How can one return to such a place?” she said.

“There have been sustained calls from Kenyan government officials to close the camps,” she said. “In case we are asked to leave the camps, our options will be limited regardless of international laws protecting the refugees.”

Still, Abdille said she knows of at least ten refugee families who left the camp for Somalia during the month of February.

“They left under their own means. Some left with donkey carts carrying their belongings while others left on hired vehicles,” she said.

Adan Hussein Ibrahim, 35, a refugee in Ifo II camp, was more optimistic about his future in Somalia and said he plans to return before the end of March.

“I came to Kenya on November 3, 2010, with my wife and three children,” he told Sabahi. “Since then, I have not been registered. We have been surviving on the goodwill of relatives in the camp who share with us their meagre food rations.”

Ibrahim said dozens of families who arrived in Kenya at the end of 2010 had already left.

He said a group of his relatives have been checking to see if his hometown of Bulo Marer in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region is suitable for resettlement.

“In the long run, my family and I will find our way to Hargeisa. I hope to settle and start business there,” he said, adding that he was inspired to return to his home country by those still in Somalia living and working under volatile situations.

Despite reports of al-Shabaab kidnappings, harassment, extortion, stealing livestock and imposing fines, many of the refugees are keen to return or have returned already, he said.

Beginning the journey home

Dadaab District Officer Bernard ole Kipury said security forces on patrol along the Kenya-Somalia border encounter far more groups of Somalis leaving Kenya than entering.

“On questioning those leaving, they tell the security officers that they are going back home to rebuild their lives,” he told Sabahi. “They are always in groups of not less than ten people including children and mothers.”

During security searches, the refugees are mostly found in possession of personal belongings, bedding and a little food and water for the journey back home, he said.

“Those coming [into Kenya] tell security officers they were in the camps [previously],” Kipury said. “Others say they are visiting their relatives.”

He said security in the camps has improved over the past two months, however, security forces remain on alert “because the lack of activities by al-Shabaab group has previously proved to be a tactic to distract alertness before an attack”.

Kipury said it was difficult to know exactly the number of refugees who have left the camps so far.

But on February 19th, during a press conference with Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said that between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees had already travelled to Somalia voluntarily, adding that it may take two years to repatriate Somalis from Dadaab.

Raouf Mazou, UNHCR representative in Kenya, said the return of the refugees would be carried out on a voluntary basis only, as per the tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR, and that the process would take at least 10 years to conclude.

Kenyan Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Joseph ole Lenku, however, maintains that it is possible to close the camp under a year.

“What is required in every situation is a will and commitment,” he told Sabahi. “There are organisations and individuals who want to instil the notion that Somalia is not safe for returning refugees. They are instilling fear instead of hope.”

“It will defeat logic if the refugees do not return to areas liberated by Somalia and African Union as soon as today,” he said.

As repatriation becomes more real for Somali refugees in Dadaab, what do you think is the role of the Return Intention Survey? Why do you think there is a lack of enthusiasm for taking part in this survey? Do let us know your thoughts!