Kenya's Crackdown on Irregular Migrants Risks Sparking Xenophobia - Amnesty International

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Amnesty International on Saturday urged the Kenyan authorities to halt the "ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrant workers that have seen homes raided and hundreds of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arrested around the country".

The raids had intensified since August 27, when the country’s immigration department set up a hotline number for citizens to report irregular migrants in their neighbourhoods. The authorities’ actions targeting irregular migrants had mostly affected refugees and asylum seekers, the human rights organisation said in a statement.

“It is extremely worrying that citizens are being encouraged to call a hotline to report cases of suspected undocumented migrants. This approach is likely to ignite xenophobia against foreign workers, refugees, and asylum seekers,” Amnesty International deputy director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes Seif Magango said.

“This hotline should be immediately shut down. All those arrested in the crackdown should have their detention reviewed before a tribunal to verify whether it is lawful, necessary, and proportionate. All refugees and asylum seekers arrested in this crackdown should be released, as they cannot be deported,” Magango said.

On May 21, the Kenyan authorities began a 60-day process of verifying work permits held by foreigners in the country. On August 24, Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Fred Matiang’i ordered the immigration department and security forces to arrest, detain, and deport all irregular migrants by November 30.

The directive had led to numerous house raids in Nairobi and its environs, including Rongai, Mwiki, Pangani, Ngong, Kasarani, and Githurai, and in other towns such as Bungoma, Nyeri, Eldoret, and Nakuru. Amnesty International’s research showed people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan had been affected.

“Some people were picked up from their homes and others from places of worship, and those found without documents detained in police stations, some since Friday, 24 August,” Magango said.

“The Kenyan government must stop hounding people who have fled war and persecution in their home countries but instead protect them. They must not be forced to return to countries where they would be at risk of harm.”

Students with valid papers had also been affected. In one case documented by Amnesty International, a South Sudanese student with a valid student visa and another on a valid visitor visa were arbitrarily detained overnight on August 26.

“Detention of refugees and asylum seekers with a view to deporting them back to their country of origin is unacceptable and goes against Kenya’s own constitution and its international obligations on how to treat refugees and asylum seekers,” Magango said.

- African News Agency (ANA)