The Government’s decision to close urban refugee centres and repatriate genuine refugees in late 2012 offended international law and violated their fundamental rights and freedoms, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The mop-up operation against the refugees in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret was in blatant breach of the State’s responsibility to persons in vulnerable situations and deserved to be quashed, the three-Judge Appellate bench said.
The court upheld the decision made by High Court Judge David Majanja on July 26, 2013, in which he extinguished the directives issued by top Government officials on December 18, 2012 and January 16, 2013, decreeing the forceful eviction of refugees from urban refugee centres.
The forceful repatriation of the refugees was triggered by a series of grenade attacks. The Government decided to close down the urban refugee camps and directed that the aliens should be taken to Thika stadium for screening before they were returned to their respective countries.
Appeal Judges Philip Waki, Festus Azangalala and Patrick Kiage yesterday threw out an appeal lodged by the Attorney General on grounds that the State did not have any right to go against principles of international law that protect refugees. The Ag had argued that Section 6 of the Refugees Act compels aliens to reside within gazette camps at Dadaab and Kakuma.
“In arriving at the policy in question, the relevant departments of Government did not engage in any discernible and meaningful consultations with the stakeholders, the persons who were to be directly affected by the decision arrived at. It was a classic case of paternalistic unilateralism on the part of the Government, which out of the blues, made a decision ostensibly for the good and benefit of urban refugees,” the Appellate Judges observed.
“It was a decision made in a knee-jerk response to grenade attacks not rationally connected to refugees as such, and definitely not by the six petitioners. It was a high-handed decision quite oblivious to and uncaring about the ensuing hardships that the target group of persons would thereby be exposed to,” they said.