Amnesty International has condemned the ongoing crackdown on undocumented immigrants by Kenyan authorities warning it may result in xenophobia.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Mr. Seif Magango, has therefore called on Kenya to halt the ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrant workers, an action which he said has seen homes raided and hundreds of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arrested around the country.
“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.
“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,” the Amnesty Deputy Director said.
According to the statement, the raids have intensified since August 27, when the country’s Immigration Department set up a hotline number for citizens to report irregular migrants in their neighbourhoods.
This, it said, has mostly affected refugees and asylum seekers.
Amnesty International disclosed that the directive has 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.
It said its finding shows people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan (i.e. countries of origin of many refugees and asylum-seekers) have been affected.
Speaking further on the issue, Mr. Magango said: “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.
“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.
“Detention of refugees and asylum-seekers with a view to deport 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.”
The statement went on to disclose that students with valid papers have also been affected.
“In one case, documented by Amnesty International, one South Sudanese student with a valid student visa and another on a valid visitor visa were arbitrarily detained overnight on 26 August,” it said.
On May 21, 2018, the Kenyan authorities began a 60-day process of verifying work permits held by foreigners in the country.
On August 24, Cabinet Secretary for Interior, Fred Matiang’I, ordered the Immigration Department and security forces to arrest, detain and deport all irregular migrants by 30 November.