Eritrean refugees arrested in Kenya, facing repatriation

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Some of the 60 Eritrean nationals at Lodwar Court waiting to be taken to Kakuma Refugee Camp to be processed as refugees after their release. The foreigners were arrested and detained for more than two weeks for being in the country illegally. Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

NAIROBI, Kenya - A Wajir court on Friday issued an order for the detention of 68 refugees of Eritrean origin at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County.

This group, consisting of 50 men and 16 women, was apprehended at Leheley in Wajir on December 1 while en route to Nairobi.

Following their court appearance and remand until December 8, 2023, Senior Principal Magistrate Roselyn Aganyo, presiding in Wajir, instructed the police to escort the group from prisons to the designated refugee camp.

“It is hereby ordered that the accused persons be escorted to the Dadaab refugee camp so that the Department of Refugee Affairs to establish their status and take further actions as required by law. That they are escorted by officers from Leheley police station,” she ruled.

Human Rights Defenders had moved to court to fight for the 68 Eritrean refugees who are asylum seekers.

While the UNHCR Refugee Consortium of Kenya and the Department of Refugees Services wanted them to remain detained in jail till the assessment, the court freed them from prison.

Following the presentation by Sanctuary Foundation and Pugna Malum appointed human rights lawyer Steve Wanyoike, and based on the Refugees Act No 10 of 2021, the magistrate ruled the refugees, among them two pregnant women and children, must be taken to Dadaab refugee camp.

The group was arrested as they sought for means of transport to Nairobi. They were charged with being illegally in Kenya.

The police are strategizing to repatriate the individuals back to Asmara amidst growing calls to address this concerning trend.

However, human rights defenders have strongly opposed the repatriation plan, contending that the individuals were en route to South Africa in pursuit of better opportunities when they were intercepted.

The group had traversed from Ethiopia, using the main border and subsequently branching into Wajir to evade police scrutiny in the region.

This incident marks the latest occurrence in a series of similar events.

Two weeks ago, ten Eritreans were arrested on a major highway in Lodwar, Turkana.

The aliens, who included six minors, said they were headed for South Africa for greener pastures when they were found stranded in Merian Kawalase village.

Villagers alerted police the aliens were in the area before they were arrested.

A court has also ordered the group to be detained at the local Kakuma refugee camp. Most of those caught are Ethiopians.

The group said they were running from problems in their country and headed to South Africa, seeking greener pastures.

Police said most of the aliens use the Moyale route as they head to South Africa and the Middle East, oblivious of the dangers ahead.

Tens of aliens are often arrested in various places in the country as they wait to be moved to their next destinations.

Police and immigration officials have deplored increased cases of Ethiopian aliens nabbed in the country while in transit.

Officials from the Transnational Organised Crime Unit are conducting joint operations to deal with human smuggling.

Tens of Ethiopians and now Eritreans are annually arrested in Kenya while in transit and later deported.

Most of those arrested come to Kenya to seek jobs or are in transit.

What is puzzling is how the immigrants manage to evade many police roadblocks mounted from the Moyale border, which they use to Nairobi.

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