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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Kenya 'forcing' Somalis out
Somali refugees in makeshift camp in Mandera, Kenya
Somali refugees fled recent fighting in Gedo region
Aid agencies say that the Kenyan authorities are using threats and intimidation to drive thousands of Somali refugees back across the border.


The police came to the camp and told us through loudspeakers to leave Mandera in two days or face the consequences.

Somali refugee

More than 6,000 refugees are now living just inside Somalia, after leaving the Kenyan town of Mandera, following ultimatums from the Kenyans for them to go home, the agencies say.

The Kenyans toured the refugee areas, warning them to leave on loudspeakers - and later police went in to reinforce the message.

Aid agencies warn that thousands are now without food and medicine, in an area that is too dangerous for them to reach.

At least nine children are said to have died as a result of the poor conditions.

Rape threat

The Kenyan authorities say the town of Mandera cannot cope with the influx, and that the refugees must leave for existing camps housing more than 130,000 people.

The BBC's Kariuki wa Murethi in Mandera says that while many refugees are returning to Somalia, a similar number are crossing back into Kenya.

A Somali refugee in Mandera Kenya
Most refugees say they are afraid to go back

He says about 8,000 Somali refugees are still in Mandera, staying in a makeshift camp where there is a shortage of food, water and medicine.

"The police came to the camp and told us through loudspeakers to leave Mandera in two days or face the consequences," Hassan Ahmed Bakole, one of the 4,000 Somalis remaining on the Kenyan side of the border told the French news agency, AFP.

"You can't complain about rape, theft or beating if you insist to stay here and nobody is responsible for your safety," police told the refugees at the border post, according to one Somali woman.

She said that many mothers had sent their daughters back to Somalia in response to the rape threats.

Peace efforts

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) say it air-lifted two planeloads of aid to the camp last week but aid agencies have said that distributing food in the camp was proving problematic.

Thousands of Somalis fled to northern Kenya from the troubled Gedo region after clashes broke out between rival factions in mid-April.

More followed during a resurgence of violence in May.

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah has blamed neighbouring Ethiopia for the violence, and accused the country of undermining peace efforts in Somalia and threatening the stability of the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia has denied it is involved in the fighting and accused the Somali Government of making up the reports.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mahat Khalif, Mandera Deputy Mayor, Focus on Africa
"The refugees cannot be accommodated in this region."

Politics

Terrorist haven?

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16 May 02 | Africa
15 May 02 | Africa
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