United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Kenya, -, 1 January 1997, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/uscri/1997/en/90623 [accessed 26 February 2024]
Kenya hosted approximately 185,000 refugees at the end of 1996, including an estimated 150,000 from Somalia, about 30,000 from Sudan, some 5,000 from Ethiopia, and up to 1,000 from various other countries. About 8,000 Kenyans were refugees in Ethiopia. An estimated 100,000 Kenyans remained internally displaced. The number of refugees in Kenya continued to decline from a 1992 peak of about 420,000. An estimated 150,000 or more Somalis, some 70,000 Ethiopians, and smaller numbers of Sudanese refugees have repatriated from Kenya since 1992. Nine of the 16 refugee camps operating in 1992-93 have closed. Modest numbers of refugees repatriated from Kenya during 1996, and some 9,000 formally resettled in third countries with UNHCR assistance. Somali Refugees Most Somali refugees fled to Kenya during 1991-92 to escape civil war and famine in their own country. More than half have gradually returned to their country, but continued warfare in parts of Somalia have made many refugees reluctant to risk a return. Somali refugees lived in three areas of Kenya. Up to 115,000 occupied three camps in the country's remote eastern zone near the Somalia border. Aid workers estimated that up to 30,000 Kenyans were also occupying the eastern camps in order to receive food assistance during the area's ongoing drought. The second concentration was in the southeast, near the coastal city of Mombasa, where some 15,000 Somali refugees lived in three camps. Kenyan authorities closed several coastal-area camps in 1995 and indicated that the three remaining camps in the area would eventually shut down because their presence allegedly harmed Mombasa's tourism industry. The third concentration of Somali refugees was in Kenya's urban areas, where tens of thousands of refugees dwelled despite government restrictions that attempted to prohibit refugees from residing there. Government estimates asserted that as many as 100,000 Somali refugees lived in urban areas. Kenyan officials for years have demanded that urban refugees should live in designated refugee camps, and have conducted periodic police sweeps to apprehend refugees found in urban areas. A police sweep reportedly occurred in November. Urban Somali refugees have resisted moving to the eastern border camps, regarding them as desolate, dangerous, and devoid of economic opportunities. Occupants of the southeastern coastal camps have also been reluctant to relocate, because their present sites have provided water, farming, and employment superior to border camps in the desert. Somali refugees continued to face protection problems. In the eastern border camps, rapes reportedly occurred almost daily, especially as women and girls collected firewood and grazed animals in the bush. Banditry in and near the border camps continued to victimize refugees and police alike. UNHCR has provided protective fencing around camps and has donated at least $800,000 worth of equipment to local Kenyan police since 1993 to improve security. Refugees in cities remained vulnerable to harassment and extortion by authorities. Kenya's president charged that some refugees were jeopardizing their stay in Kenya by engaging in drug trafficking. No expulsions were reported, however. Health and social services in Somali refugee camps have become well-established. Thousands of Somali refugee children attended primary schools at refugee sites during the year. Although refugees encountered shortages of medicine and overcrowded hospitals, aid workers asserted that the refugee population generally received health care superior to many Kenyans and better than health services available in much of Somalia. UNHCR provided about $250,000 worth of medicines and supplies to Kenya's Ministry of Health in 1996 for use in hospitals and clinics throughout the country. About 1,000 Somali refugees repatriated from Kenya by air during the year, far fewer than the estimated 44,000 who repatriated in 1995. Several thousand others might have repatriated spontaneously, without being counted. About 8,000 Somali refugees departed Kenya for resettlement in third countries during 1996. Somalia's security problems, crop failures, and cholera outbreak dissuaded most Somali refugees from going home. Some 6,000 new Somali refugees arrived in Kenya during the year. Sudanese Refugees The number of Sudanese refugees in Kenya has ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 in recent years, depending on the course of Sudan's civil war. Approximately 30,000 were in Kenya at the end of 1996, including 6,000 who arrived during the year. Most Sudanese refugees lived in Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya, where they dwelled in houses designed in traditional village style, with garden plots for each household. Many Sudanese arrived at the camp four years ago as boys without their families, and have grown into adults in the camp. The overwhelming majority of the refugees were males, including 5,000 unaccompanied minors. About two thirds were aged 15 to 22. Aid workers have charged that Sudanese rebel groups conscript the male refugees at Kakuma camp into rebel ranks. Violence erupted among occupants of Kakuma in June, leaving six dead and dozens wounded. Relief agencies temporarily curtailed services and cut salaries to their refugee workers in response to the violence. Protests in March against a new food distribution system destroyed three camp buildings. Some 15,000 Sudanese attended some 20 schools in Kakuma camp. Although the refugees' general health situation reportedly was satisfactory, some malnutrition existed among the youngest children. Ethiopian Refugees Some 5,000 Ethiopian refugees remained in Kenya at the end of 1996, a fraction of the 80,000 who fled there during 1991-92 to escape ethnic conflict and drought in their own country. Many of the remaining refugees lived in camps in Kenya's northwestern and eastern border regions. Bureaucratic delays in Ethiopia and health problems among Ethiopian refugees in Kenya delayed repatriation efforts during the year fewer than 1,000 returned to Ethiopia. UNHCR was making plans to repatriate half of the refugees by air, but the movement did not occur before year's end. An organization of Ethiopian refugees complained during 1995-96 that UNHCR discriminated against Ethiopian refugees in Kenya by ignoring their asylum claims. UNHCR denied the charge. Internal Displacement Political and ethnic violence in western Kenya during 1991-92 uprooted an estimated 300,000 persons and left some 1,500 dead. Sporadic violence has continued since then. Kenyan church groups, opposition political parties, and international human rights experts have accused government leaders of provoking or condoning violence in order to push political opponents from their homes and secure land for supporters of the ruling party. Officials of Kenya's ruling party blamed the violence on traditional ethnic tensions and competition for land. The government has at times barred outsiders from entering the conflict area to investigate. A UNDP program to assist and resettle displaced Kenyans ended in 1995 after encountering government restrictions as well as criticism from local church leaders and human rights advocates. The number of persons permanently resettled by the UNDP program remained a matter of controversy. Violence occurred less frequently in 1996. Thousands of families were able to return to their homes despite lingering tensions. Some 16 persons reportedly died in an incident in December. Clashes in October caused two reported deaths. Thousands of families, however, remained displaced because government officials had reallocated their land, or because the families themselves feared additional violence prior to general elections scheduled for 1997. An estimated 100,000 were still displaced at the end of 1996, some of them with no clear prospect of resolving their situation. The uprooted population occupied church properties, makeshift temporary shelters, and private homes. Churches and relief groups conducted workshops to encourage peace and reconciliation in affected areas.
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U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Kenya
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