- The international human rights body has called on Kenyan government to crack down on corrupt police officials allegedly abusing thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya’s largest refugee settlement.
According to the new report released by Human Rights Watch, the Somali’s escaping violence in Somalia need protection and help, but said they run a risk of being tortured and abused by Kenyan police upon their arrival in the camps.
"Somali asylum seekers should be able to cross the border safely and get the aid in Kenya they urgently need,” the report said further appealing to the Kenyan government to address police misconduct in refugee camps.
Human Rights Watch has also accused Kenya's political leaders for turning a blind eye to such police corruption and abuses, which it says have grown worse since the government closed the Kenyan-Somali border in 2007.
The refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch, Gerry Simpson, said the Kenyan government has legitimate security concerns and a right to control its borders, saying the borders cannot be closed to refugees fleeing fighting and persecution in Somalia.
"The border closure has only made Somali refugees more vulnerable to abuse and lessened the government's and UN refugees agency control over who enters Kenya and who is registered in the camps,” the report said.
In 2008, a record yearly total of almost 60,000 Somalis sought refuge in three camps near the town of Dadaab in northeastern Kenya, while possibly tens of thousands more traveled to Nairobi, according to the report.
The report said new arrivals in the camps face police extortion, violence, and unlawful deportation when trying to cross Kenya's officially closed border.
During the past two years, an escalating armed conflict by Ethiopian and Somali government forces against insurgency, resulting in numerous war crimes and human rights abuses, has forced almost 1 million residents of Mogadishu to flee, and provoked a growing influx of Somali refugees into Kenya.
Despite Ethiopia's withdrawal in late 2008 and early this year, the violence escalated between Islamist groups and the government, with more refugees expected throughout 2009.
In February, the Kenyan national police force was under spotlight after the UN report on extrajudicial killings in the east-African country accused the force of running the killing squads.
The Dadaab's camps are currently holding well over 100,000 refugees, since 1992 were severely under-funded even before the new wave of refugees started arriving in 2006 and increasingly in 2008. By mid-2008, acute malnutrition in the camps stood at 13 percent the report has said.
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