Kenyan authorities are deporting asylum-seekers to Somalia, a violation of international law, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said on Friday.
UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said that the police and military, acting on orders from provincial authorities, have been rounding up and forcibly returning Somalis trying to reach Dadaab, the world's largest refugee settlement.
The overcrowded facility already houses 250,000 refugees, and aid workers expect 100,000 more Somalis to arrive this year, raising tensions in Kenya's impoverished northeast where human rights groups say police corruption is a major problem.
Redmond said that earlier this week, the Kenyan military stopped a bus of 31 asylum-seekers headed to Dadaab, took them to the local police station and then returned them to the Somali border without reviewing their claims.
This followed a March 23 incident in which 61 asylum-seekers were arrested and promptly shipped back to Somalia, where rising violence has driven more than 1 million people from their homes and made a third of the population dependent on food aid.
"UNHCR has sent a formal complaint to the Minister of Immigration and Registration of Persons protesting these actions," Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva, where the U.N. agency is based. "No action has been taken," he said.
Under the international legal principle of "non-refoulement", also enshrined in Kenya's refugee law, states cannot deport asylum seekers without reviewing their claims and ensuring they will not be persecuted or abused back at home.
Last week, the watchdog group Human Rights Watch said that in addition to illegally deporting refugees, corrupt Kenyan authorities have been abusing and extorting money from Somalis looking for shelter at the three camps at Dadaab.
Kenya has agreed to allocate new land for a separate refugee site, which public health officials say is needed to reduce the risk of disease spreading among those living close together in Dadaab, often without sanitary toilets and cooking facilities.
Due north in Ethiopia, authorities have also built new camps to house Somalis fleeing the violence that has killed more than 17,000 civilians in their homeland in the past two years. The UNHCR on Friday said it has started moving refugees in Ethiopia to a newly opened camp some 90 km (56 miles) from the border.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Nisan 2009, 12:19